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All rights reserved 

TO W. S. GREEN, F.R.G.S., 

H. .17. Inspector of Irish Fisheries ; Member of the Congested 
Districts Board of Ireland. 


Here is a book about the life of Ireland, inscribed to you be- 
cause no man has helped its writer so much to realise Irish history, 
whether of the past or of the present. I cannot hope to quicken 
interest as you quickened mine, for you had the seas and the winds, 
the mountains and the rocky shores, boats and nets, men's faces and 
voices, their speech and actions, to be a part in your instruction. But 
something of the virtue of that teaching may perhaps make itself 
felt even in what I write, as here, of places where I had not your 
company to enrich and enliven my pages ; and if so, it is as well 
that my readers should know where the virtue comes from. 

But there is another gratitude which I make occasion to express 
here, for want of some place more fitting the gratitude which 
all of us must feel towards whoever can provide Irishmen with the 
means of a fair livelihood at home. When Government set out to 
help the Irish-speaking seaboard to reap and profit by the dangerous 
harvest which lay within reach of skill and courage, a man was 
needed to direct the undertaking. Seaman he must be, and fisher- 
man, knowing all the conditions of the craft ; but a man of science 
also, who had knowledge of many things that lifelong observation 
could not teach the shrewdest handler of line or net, pookaun or 
curragh. More than that, he needed the large general intelligence 
which could conquer difficult problems of transit and market, setting 
the slow forces of trade at motion in new channels. But above all, 
a man he must be who knew and liked the Irish peasantry, with 
that understanding of their qualities and their limitations which is 
born, not of sentiment nor of conviction, but of long fellowship and 


homely liking who could teach without pedantry or impatience 
the work which had to be done, and could encourage by the appeal 
to natural motives. Such a man was not easy to find, and when the 
choice lighted upon you, it was a lucky day for you, since every man 
is lucky who gets the chance to do the work for which he is precisely 
suited, and the more important that work, the luckier he. But 
above all, it was a lucky day for the Irish speakers from Donegal 
to Kerry and West Cork. If to-day on the bay that I know best 
there are sixty or seventy boats earning big money at the herring 
where twenty years ago no buyer ever showed his face and no boat 
carried sail, I do most earnestly believe that the change is due, 
humanly speaking, not to yourself alone, for there at all events 
you have had the help that you deserved but to yourself more 
than to any one man in Ireland. And since Boards and officials do 
not come by too much thanks, let me here thank you not only for 
what you have done for me, but for what you have done for 
my friends. 






BOOK. ..... . ' ' 





FIRBOLGS ......... ... 59 



















INDEX 405 




A CAVALIER OF CONG . . ....... . , 8 




ARMAGH .123 

BRIDGE OVER OONA RIVER . . . .... .138 





SLEMISH MOUNTAIN . . . . . . . .185 

ST. PATRICK . . . . . ..... . . 206 

DONAGHPATRICK CHURCH . . . . . . . . 234 








KING FLANN'S CROSS . . . ... . .... 277 


KINCORA AND LOUGH DERG . . . . . . . 300 

BRIAN'S RATH AT KILLALOE ,:.: . . . . . . 303 


CATHEDRAL . . . 314 



ROCK . . . ' 376 






THE SHANACHIE Frontispiece. 








6 mo G^ome 50 cit\ tiA ti-6ifi&&nn, 

6i|\ex\nn O ! 
'5 Cum A mAipionn T>e fTolf\AC lf\ if 

Af\ tt^n-Cnoic 6ifeAnn, O ! 
An AIC UT> 'riApt> 'Aoirjmn bmn-guc eAn 
TTUri fAm-cf.uic C^om ^5 CAom 
1f e mo 6Af A oeic mile mite i-gcem 

O DAn-Cnoic 6i|\eAnn, 0! 

"OonncAt) UuAt) Yf\AcConmA\(A. 

Take a blessing from my heart to the land of my birth 

And the fair Hills of Eire, O ! 
And to all that yet survive of Eber's tribe on earth 

On the fair Hills of Eire, O ! 
In that land so delightful the wild thrush's lay 
Seems to pour a lament forth for Eire's decay 
Alas ! alas ! why pine I a thousand miles away 

From the fair Hills of Eire, O ! 


THIS book is written like Red Donough Mac- 
namara's lyric from which it borrows its title 
in praise of Ireland. Praise is often superfluous or 
dull ; yet pleasure no less than love increases with 

E B 


fuller understanding, and to praise a country rightly 
is to give some understanding of its soil and its 
people, its mountains and plains, seas and rivers, 
cities and solitudes ; its ways of life and thought, its 
history and its aspirations, its failures and possibilities, 
its joy and its grief. Though to accomplish this to 
the full is more than even the greatest writer could 
do for the smallest principality, yet an Irishman 
attempting it may hope to convey something of the 
knowledge, and something of the feeling, that has 
prompted in him the fairest of all literary motives 
the desire to praise. 

In that hope then this book has been written, 
for the traveller rather than for the tourist, for 
Irishmen rather than for strangers; but in general 
for all who will sympathise with the project which 
sent two of us out on a pilgrimage of pleasure under- 
taken in pursuit of knowledge. Our object was to 
represent by typical instances Ireland as a whole ; and 
so, to a number of places and districts up and down 
the country we went looking for what would help to 
realise, for ourselves and for others, Ireland as she is, 
and as she has been. And this pilgrimage, though 
followed on the map it seems random and arbitrary, 
was made on a fixed principle which an illustration 
will best explain. 

If you set down a geologist anywhere in Ireland 
and give him time and the opportunity to dig and 
investigate, he will demonstrate to you there pro- 
vided he can dig deep enough the history of the 


soil and rock he stands on. Stratum by stratum, 
he will show you the successive deposits ; but in any 
given place, some particular phase in the geological 
history of Ireland will be salient and characteristic. 
Here it will be a story of subsidence, there of 
upheaval ; here of wearing away, there of piling up. 
But whether in the alluvial valley of the Shannon, or 
the basaltic outcrop of north-east Antrim, your 
geologist can infer for you the story of Ireland, 
with special reference to one place, and special insis- 
tence on one incident in the evolution of the whole. 

In like manner there is no townland in Ireland so 
insignificant but that if you could trace back all that 
happened there you would have a history of Ireland 
from one limited point of view. And there is no one 
of the places where great things have been done and 
suffered for Ireland, but keeps evidence of historic 
strata (so to speak) before and after that moment by 
which specially it is named and known. 

Our plan, then, was to select a certain number 
of such characteristic centres, and by visiting each 
to obtain that sense of contact with reality which 
mere reading does not easily afford. Partly, then, 
we have been compiling a guide-book to places of 
historic interest in Ireland ; but also we hope that a 
book has been made which will have a more general 
interest. Every chapter calls up associations covering 
a great range in the story of the Irish race ; and the 
chapters have been grouped in a chronological 
sequence, beginning with those places where the 

B 2 


salient interest belongs to a very remote age. The 
selection had to be somewhat arbitrary : in Armagh, 
for instance, and the country about it, there are many 
things to think of, but the rath of Emain Macha 
seemed to dominate them, and the chapter is there- 
fore set at the point assigned by historians to the 
legendary glories of Conchobar MacNessa and his 
champions of the Red Branch. Yet the triumphs of 
the Yellow Ford and of Benburb are not forgotten in 
the story still less the ecclesiastical and scholarly 
traditions of St. Patrick's see. 

Thus in one sense the history of Ireland will be 
illustrated generally by desultory topographical 
references in each chapter, with special and detailed 
insistence on that period for which the chapter 
stands ; but in a more definite manner also, the 
whole book is designed to present the reader with 
a continuous view of Irish history, stratum by 
stratum, up to a certain point, fixed for reasons 
which must be explained. 

By the study of Irish history is meant, nine times 
out of ten, study of the relations between Ireland and 
England. Yet everyone admits that the period when 
Irish genius produced its most characteristic work in 
literature, and its only characteristic work in art the 
period when Ireland played a part, at times great 
and always considerable, in the history of Europe 
lies within the seven centuries before the Norman 
invasion, and not within the seven hundred unhappy 
years which succeeded to that great turning point. 


The stretch of Irish history, then, which we have 
chosen to illustrate, by presenting various successive 
phases in its development, is the earlier range when 
Ireland was still (even in spite of the Danes) Ireland 
of the Gael, not Ireland of the Gael and the Gall. 
This material lent itself the better to our method 
because here regular history is as yet impossible ; and 
it seems likely that many readers will be glad to meet 
not only some description of the monuments which 
survive from those early days, but also passages 
gathered from the early documents, out of which now 
at last faithful and laborious study is building up a 
truly historic record. 

The impossibility of executing in a manner to defy 
criticism such a task as is here undertaken almost dis- 
penses me from the need of apology for the book's 
shortcomings. Yet it cannot be made too clear that 
the object of these pages is not so much to teach, as 
to suggest a line of thought and study which have been 
for the writer fruitful of endless pleasure and interest. 
Whoever goes in quest of such information as is 
given in these pages will find everywhere (if my own 
happy experience be any guide) that even a little 
knowledge, or the mere desire to learn, is a passport 
to good will : that in libraries, public and private, 
generous direction will be lavishly bestowed : and 
that abroad, in the fields or in the towns, men are to 
be met with for whom the past of their own particular 
district is hardly less familiar than the present. My 
task has been again and again to transmit in writing 


(if I only could !) the vivid perceptions which were 
raised in my mind by such men, true spiritual 
descendants of the ancient ollaves, who, out of the 
fulness of their knowledge, told me the story of the 
rath, the monastery, the city wall, or the battlefield, 
by which we chanced to stand. If I name my special 
gratitude to Dr. Costello of Tuam, it is not without 
an inward recognition of the fact that he, alone of all 
the friendly and hospitable antiquarians whom I met 
with, was also an angler, and took me out fishing. 
And that is not so irrelevant as it may seem to 
those who are not fishers. 

For this book is written to advocate intelligent travel 
in Ireland ; but the traveller whom I distinguish 
sharply from the tourist if he goes to enrich his 
mind, goes also to get all the fun he can out of the 
business. The places written of in this book are 
many of them quite out of the tourist track and 
away from the regular resorts of anglers : yet (thank 
goodness !) there are few spots in Ireland where fishing 
cannot be had, and I have not yet found the place 
where there was nothing worth seeing. But let us 
be quite honest. There is very little in this guide- 
book to guide any one to what is called nowadays 
"natural scenery." For my own part I see nothing 
unnatural in a field growing corn, a lakeside finely 
planted, a river bank with mills on it, or the bight of 
a bay filled with its town, beyond blue sea and under 
purple mountains. But scenery to be " natural," in 
the modern acceptance of the term, must not show the 


trace of man's handiwork ; and of such scenery we have 
our share in Ireland. Yet, so 1 am told, in this we 
cannot compete with Scotland : there will always be 
some intrusive cabin with its blue reek, some stray 
patch of scanty oats or potatoes, to mar the perfect 
repose of town-bred imagination. Still, even with 
these drawbacks there are plenty of wildernesses in 
Connemara, in Kerry, in Sligo, and in Donegal, fair 
enough to tempt description ; but not of them has 
this book to treat. It concerns itself with the life of 
Ireland the life that is, or was too often, with the 
life that has disappeared, leaving only ruin or stagna- 
tion. Yet looking back on months of journeying, of 
coming into little leisurely grey-blue towns with the 
dusk of evening, of setting out in bright mornings 
to sketch and study broad-brimming navigable rivers, 
lush pastures, nobly planted hill slopes, it seems as 
if lack of beauty were the last thing one had to 
complain of. And, at almost every point in the 
journey, beauty of another sort was also to be seen 
and studied the beauty that devout hands had 
fashioned to the glory of their faith, the beauty 
that strong builders had bestowed upon their castled 
mansions a beauty pathetic now in its imperfection, 
shining through disfigurement, yet often enhanced by 
that perfect adjustment to its surroundings which 
only the ruin can achieve. 

There is one more thing to say. Writing of 
Ireland, I have written, so far as my ignorance 
allowed me, in the spirit and with the help of that 


native Irish literary and historical tradition whose 
value is as yet strangely underrated even amongst 
ourselves to-day. An instance is not far to seek. 
Every educated man and woman of the Irish race 
at home and abroad knows the name and the tragic 
story of Clarence Mangan ; yet how few remember 
the hedge school poet of the eighteenth century, 
not less interesting and by far more typical a figure, 
whose lines, with Mangan's translation of them, I 
have set at the head of these pages. And here I 
may give, what is more strictly to my purpose, the 
closing verse of Red Donough's superb poem ; for it 
sums up the very scope and compass of all that this 
book is written to express. 

1 r FOfsuilce^c tMitce-AC ^n AIC fin 
O ! 


O ! 

tXd tiitine liom T\A me-AjtAi A^ fce,ATMit> 
Semm 'f 5eimpe.<y6 A IAO% 'p A mt)<3, 
UxMtmorh r\A speme opjtA, AO^A 'f 65 
, O ! 

A fruitful clime is Eire's, through valley, meadow, plain, 

And the fair land of Eire, O ! 
The very Bread of Life is in the yellow grain 

On the fair Hills of Eire, O ! 
Far dearer unto me than the tones music yields 
Is the lowing of her kine and the calves in her fields, 
And the sunlight that fell long ago on the shields 

Of the Gaels, on the fair Hills of Eire, O ! 



THE ancient Irish were neither builders of cities 
nor, to any great extent, users of the sea. Of the 
seaport towns which to-day stand prominent, Dublin, 
Limerick, Waterford, and Wexford are of Danish 
origin ; Belfast and Derry of English ; Cork and 
Galway perhaps truly Irish, yet at Cork St. Finbarre 
established a university rather than a city, and the 
importance of Galway only begins after a Norman 
walled it and planted there a colony from which the 
Irish were rigorously excluded. For the first centres 
of Irish life we must look elsewhere. 

From the earliest times the wealth of the country 
lay in cattle, and the chief seats of sovereignty were 
found commanding some district of rich pasturage ; 
at Cruachan in Roscommon, at Cashel in the. Golden 
Vale, at Ardmacha in the fruitful plains draining into 
Lough Neagh, at Dunlavin or Naas in the broad 
champaign of Kildare ; but above all, at Tara in the 
richest part of the richest and most central province, 
the kingdom of Meath, which was cut out and set 


apart for the High King of Eire. In early Irish story 
we hear little of Liffey or Lee, of Foyle or Lagan ; 
but the valley of the Boyne is the very focus of the 
whole. And since by a chance of military move- 
ments the Boyne was also the scene of the most 
decisive event in modern Irish history, it is on all 
grounds right to make our beginning here. Nowhere 
else does the solid substratum of fact which underlies 
the half-legendary story of pagan Ireland make itself 
so plainly felt ; nowhere else have we so complete 
and striking a series of landmarks to guide imagina- 
tion through the centuries down to the present 

It would be idle to attempt a complete summary 
of the historic associations which can be unearthed 
within a radius of twelve miles round Navan, which 
stands at the meeting of Boyne with its affluent the 
Blackwater. Tara is five miles to the south, Tailtenn 
(almost of equal importance in ancient annals) about 
as far to the north : Kells, Monasterboice, and Melli- 
font suggest the successive glories of Irish Chris- 
tianity, Trim, the castellated strength of Norman 
rule ; while close to the scene of William's victory 
lies Drogheda with its bitter memory of Cromwell. 
And round each of these landmarks of pagan Ireland, 
early Christian Ireland, feudal Ireland, rebel Ireland, 
a whole group of others might be gathered. Here, 
even less than elsewhere, shall I attempt to be 
exhaustive ; but here, also, in this opening chapter I 
shall be somewhat more concerned to provide a kind 


of a chronological skeleton to establish typically 
the enchainment of events. 

Almost with the first beginnings of Irish legendary 
history the name of Tara appears. We are told of 
two earlier colonies than the Firbolgs, but no race 
earlier than they is said to have effected a permanent 
lodgment in Ireland, and their king Slainge (accord- 
ing to Irish bardic tradition) established at Tara the 
first monarchy. After the Firbolgs came the Tuatha 
de Danann, a fair-haired tall people of magical powers, 
who routed the little dark men, took possession of 
Tara, and erected there one of their special treasures, 
the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, on which every 
High King was inaugurated. Dates are given for 
these happenings, and the coming of the Tuatha de 
Danann is confidently put down at the year of the 
world 3303 that is, by Irish reckoning, 1896 B.C. 
Two hundred years later (according to the same tra- 
dition) came the last of these pre-historic colonising 
expeditions that of the Milesians, who under Eber 
and Eremon defeated the magic-working de Danann, 
and got possession of the country. 

Four hundred years later (about 1200 B.C.) the 
full honour was given to Tara (again according to 
tradition) by the great King Ollamh Fodhla, 1 who 

1 Using English character, I am obliged to adopt the clumsy 
convention which represents the Irish aspirating mark by an h. 
But this h is only sounded after c, as in Cruachan. Mh represents 
either v (as in Ollamh) or w (as in Samhain). Other consonants 
are generally silenced by it, as in Fodhla, Fola. 


decreed a triennial Feis, or assembly, to be held there 
at Samhain (November ist) for a revision of the laws 
and historical records. It will be seen how far- 
reaching a sanction is claimed for all this chronicle, 
since the tradition means that records were regularly 
kept by the State for 2,500 years before Strongbow. 
Yet one cannot say that all such tradition proves more 
than this : that in the earliest Irish history transmitted 
to us Tara figures as an immemorial seat of law- 
giving and sovereignty. 

As we approach the Christian era, persons and 
places in the story grow more definite, and at last a 
singular passage occurs. We read that the Firbolgs 
and other plebeian races (who had been enslaved for 
some fifteen hundred years) revolted and set a king 
of their own on the throne ; and that King Tuathal 
Teachtmhar, having after eight years restored the 
Milesian rule to its rightful position, added new 
solemnity to the Feis at Tara, and gave fresh life to 
the great annual fair at Tailtenn. 

This is the point at which a critical scholar, basing 
his theories on purely Irish material, opines that 
authentic history may find at least a starting-point. 
The theory put forward by Mr. Eoin MacNeill 
must be more fully stated in my chapters on Tara 
and on Cashel. Here it is only needful to say that 
he believes the Milesians to have entered Ireland, not 
sixteen hundred years before Christ, but under King 
Tuathal about 100 A.D They were, on this view, 
British tribes set in motion by the Roman conquest 


of Britain ; and their first settlement was here in the 
valley of the Boyne, whence they ousted the previous 
rulers of Tara. In these earlier days Tara was only 
the seat of a petty tribal king, and this opinion 
detracts from the antiquity of such an institution 
as the famous Feis. But for my own part I find 
Tara more interesting when I can consider it as the 
chief focus and starting-point of that Milesian power 
Vhich spread itself over almost the whole of Ireland, 
and under which Ireland attained to the highest point 
of her fame. 

Whether Tuathal was a historic personage Mr. 
MacNeill hesitates to decide affirming merely that 
what figures as the reconquest of Tara for the Milesians 
was in reality the first conquest by men of an alien 
race, whose descendants, seven or eight centuries 
later, preferred to believe that the Milesian claim on 
that sovereignty was half as old as Time. Tuathal 
is dated about the end of the first century ; his grand- 
son, Conn the Hundred-Fighter, is hardly more, 
mythical than Agamemnon. The customs of land- 
tenure and transmission of rule which prevailed 
universally among the Milesians made genealogies 
jealously guarded, and all the kings who ruled in the 
northern half of Ireland down to the Norman in- 
vasion traced their descent to Conn. From Conn's 
time say 125 A.D. onward the kingly figures who 
move in the Boyne valley grow more and more dis- 
tinct ; and with the middle of the fourth century we 
reach the notable Niall of the Nine Hostages, who 


was perhaps the first historic High King of Ireland. 
Niall's son, Loigaire or Laoghaire (whose descendants 
have softened the name down till it is pronounced in 
Irish nearly as in the English form of O'Leary), brings 
us out of legend altogether and into the clear light of 
written record. In 428 Laoghaire succeeded Dathi, 
who had succeeded Niall. In 433 St. Patrick landed 
at Inver Colptha the Boyne estuary and made his 
way to Tara. From that time onward Ireland was a* 
part of Christendom ; yet sharply marked off from 
the rest of Christian Europe, because outside the 
Roman Empire. 

The fifth century is filled with the missionary 
labours of Patrick, which radiated from the Boyne 
valley. Columba, the great saint of the succeeding 
age, who (unlike Patrick) was a scholar, founded at 
Kells some six miles north of Navan on the Black- 
water a monastery which has left us one of the 
chief jewels of ancient Irish art. For with the increase 
of learning went increase of skill, and the Book of 
Kells, now treasured in the library of Trinity College, 
but copied and painted at Kells by some monk not 
later than the eighth century, is incomparably the 
first among all the illuminated manuscripts of the 
world. It is little wonder that men came from far 
to the home of such skill and learning ; and we get 
some measure of Ireland's place in Europe at that 
stage in her history when we read how a king 
of France was sent here to the Boyne valley 
to get his education at what was then the great 


monastery of Slane half way between Navan and 

But while clerics were praying and teaching and 
writing and following all the arts of peace, fierce 
enemies were at the gate. Again and again during 
the ninth and tenth centuries this rich region was 
raided and devastated by Danish inroads. Monu- 
ments of that time stand in the round towers at Kells 
and Monasterboice fine examples of those astound- 
ing belfries which were built all over Ireland in the 
days when religion had ceased to afford a sanctuary, 
and unarmed communities needed a place of sudden 
and safe retreat for themselves and their treasures. 
At Kells again and again alarm must have been 
given from the top of the high tower ; and then the 
custodian of the famous Book would go scrambling 
up the wooden ladder to the narrow doorway ten 
feet above the ground carrying the Book and its 
cumhdach, or casket, along with him, and drawing the 
ladder up, once he and his comrades were inside. 
Then, Danes might break their axes or crowbars 
on the huge round pillar of masonry, but the Book 
and its keeper were safe. 

Brian dealt with the Danes in the end, and from 
the day of Clontarf in 1014 they were of no more 
trouble to Ireland than any of its own tribes. But 
a worse enemy was to come ; and since even histori- 
cal imagination always seeks the woman, and pro- 
vides a Helen for every Troy, a woman has been 
made the cause of all our woes in Ireland ; and here in 


the Boyne valley is the burial place of our Helen. 
Dervorguilla, whom Diarmuid MacMurrough, King 
of Leinster, carried off from her rightful lord 
O'Rourke, the Prince of Brefny, gave great gifts 
to the Abbey of Mellifont in 1152, and retired 
thither a generation later, to end her days, long after 
MacMurrough had brought the Norman-English in 
to help him in the feud which is represented as 
having arisen out of his abduction of O'Rourke's 
lady. Yet it is probable that if Diarmuid Mac- 
Murrough had not quarrelled concerning Dervor- 
guilla with O'Rourke and with O'Rourke's overlord, 
Turlough O'Conor (who forced restitution of the 
queen and her dowry), some other cause of strife 
would have presented itself, and one or other of the 
combatants would have enlisted on his side the ambi- 
tions already awake on the other side of the Channel. 
MacMurrough's allies came with every intention to 
be richly paid for their help, and from the first they 
took a strong grip on the land. At Trim, on the 
Boyne, is one of the finest examples of the great for- 
tified castles (wholly new to Irish ideas) in which 
they entrenched their power ; and Trim was first 
built by Hugh de Lacy as early as 1173 four years 
after Strongbow's landing. Later, when the necessi- 
ties of defence were provided for, the Normans turned 
their skill to account in church building, as can be 
seen also at Trim, where they beautified St. Mary's 
Abbey, over against the castle, by the famous Yellow 
Steeple now, of course, in ruins. Its demolition 


marks another phase in the historic evolution 
though hardly, perhaps, a step of progress. No 
country in Europe gained so little and lost so much 
by the Reformation as Ireland. The sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries are filled with little but records 
of destruction. Building up begins at the earliest 
from 1750 onwards. The Boyne valley, so typical 
of all Irish history, shows no trace of existing 
magnificence except in the mansions of Protestant 
gentry and in the new-built Catholic churches ; 
but in ruins of ancient splendour it is rich indeed. 
And here the two phases in the English conquest 
must be distinguished, if the story of Ireland is to be 
understood at all. 

The Norman -English came to Ireland absolute 
aliens in race. They established a harsh domination, 
they excluded the Irish from any rights under the 
English laws which governed the settlers themselves. 
Yet in religion they were one with the people among 
whom they settled, and at least they enriched the 
country with splendid buildings, carrying on with 
ample resources a work in which the native Irish 
princes had always been forward. Moreover, in spite of 
law and custom, a gradual fusion went on. The great 
Norman houses Butlers, Fitzgeralds, de Burgos, and 
the rest were, through fosterage and intermarriage, 
becoming Irish in speech and in sympathy. Then 
came the Reformation and the dissolution of the 
monasteries under Henry VIII., offering enormous 
bribes to such of the nobility and gentry as would side 


with King against Church. Mellifont, with its 
graceful buildings, built by the Cistercians in the 
twelfth century, was made over to Garrett Moore (a 
name half Norman, half Irish), ancestor of the 
Marquises of Drogheda. What had once been the 
home of a community, a centre not only of religion 
but of active charity, became now a private dwelling 
house. But more frequently the monastic buildings 
were simply left derelict to crumble into ruin, as hap- 
pened to Monasterboice, Mellifont's older neighbour ; 
and the work was often accelerated in the wars under 
Elizabeth, when religious edifices were destroyed 
impartially by both sides as offering fortresses to the 
enemy. So perished much of the material inheritance 
from the work of Irish and Norman architects and 
sculptors. Worse still, the fusion of races was 
stopped abruptly, for the old Irish clung passionately 
to their faith. The second phase of conquest begins 
when the war is a war not of English against Irish, 
but of Protestant against Catholic, and when the 
object is not merely to subjugate the Irish and obtain 
the overlordship of their lands, but to extirpate the 
form of religious belief professed by the Irish. To 
many minds this latter project seemed to carry with 
it the necessity for extirpating the Irish themselves. 
Spenser's Lord Grey, the governor whom his poet 
chose as the embodied type of Justice, was of this 
opinion. A natural corollary was the scheme for 
planting Ireland with English cultivators, and con- 
quest assumed the double character of a religious 


C 2 


persecution and a confiscation of private property. 
Important steps to carry out this plantation policy 
were taken under James I., and in 1641 came the 
great rebellion, when the Catholics rose to recover 
what had been taken from themselves or their 
fathers. Mellifont stood a siege then as a fortified 
dwelling-house ; but the chief link with that war is 
Drogheda, where Cromwell massacred the defenders. 
This ruthless severity was only the beginning of a 
course of action which can only be described as a 
negation of all civilised war. It found its logical 
conclusion in the sales of white men and women into 
slavery. Less ruinous, though the cause of much 
material ruin, was the deliberate iconoclasm of his 
soldiers ; and probably the destruction of Trim's 
lovely steeple is assignable to sheer hatred of 
Papistical edifices. After the Cromwellian day, it 
seems there was little deliberate destruction, but how 
much was then left standing, and who was to repair 
the ravages ? For, as an essential part of this phase of 
conquest, Catholics were forbidden to use the religious 
edifices for their own ceremonies, and Catholics were 
still the nation. 

The concluding episode in that long-drawn-out con- 
quest had its most dramatic moment by the Boyne : 

July the first in Oldbridge town 

There was a famous battle, 
Where many a man lay on the groun' 

The cannons they did rattle. 

With the ignominious flight of James and the 


glorious death of Schomberg are closed the historic 
associations of the Boyne valley as men count 

Yet, if we look closer, the material of history is 
there. Events, indeed, there are none to be recorded 
for more than a century. In the days of the penal 
laws, from the reign of William and Mary till 
George III. had been already long on the throne, 
Ireland lay in a kind of lethargy, " bled to white- 
ness " by long centuries of the most devastating 
warfare. When life began to return, and blood to 
flow stronger, there came another fierce spasm of 
revolt ; and the rebellion of 1798 left its trace here 
also marked by the " Croppies' Grave " among the 
raths on Tara. With the nineteenth century began 
the constitutional effort of a people to recover 
mastery in its own land ; and certainly one of the 
marking points in that effort is given by the day 
when O'Connell assembled at Tara half a million of 
the Catholics of Ireland to demand Repeal. 

But the true materials for history are not given by 
these sporadic incidents mere finger-posts or aids 
to memory that they are. A historian who wished 
to learn much of what has happened in the Boyne 
valley since the day of William's victory would need 
first to study the records of the fine spacious houses 
with their surrounding parks and demesnes which 
close in upon both banks of the beautiful river. 
Here he would have a view of the social order which 
grew up, strong and comfortable, supported tacitly 


by the armed force of England. These are the 
newer monuments of civilisation these homes which 
the Protestant gentry built for themselves when they 
ruled the country with an absolute dominion, and in 
some cases the heirs of those who built are still in 
occupation. But not in many : you will generally 
find these mansions occupied by a stranger who rents 
them for the sake of the Meath hunting : and the 
occupant, whether stranger or scion of the old stock, 
is to-day less powerful in the country than the 
poorest Catholic publican. 

Take another aspect of history. Drogheda, where 
Cromwell and his men knocked on the head every 
priest they could discover, is to-day full of Catholic 
churches most of them brand-new, none of them 
ancient. The religion is as strong as ever it was ; 
but all the work of devout builders in bygone 
times, when men knew how to build and to give 
beauty to buildings, lies desolate and devastated. 

Yet let me close this review on a note of more 
comfort. Within this year I have drunk cider 
made at Drogheda (and I never drank better), 
though nearly two generations have gone by since 
cider-making ceased in Ireland. I have smoked 
tobacco grown in the Boyne valley, and learnt 
with delight that the enterprising gentleman who 
made the experiment cleared fifty pounds an acre 
of profit on his crop. Other instances could 
be given (and shall be given elsewhere) to show 
that the Boyne valley is something of a centre 


in the attempt to revive industrial life in Ireland, 
and to set on foot a campaign against the system 
of agriculture under which the land of Meath, 
perhaps the richest in these islands, is turned into 
a cattle ranche, and human inhabitants are ejected 
to make room for fat beasts. 

So the story has been brought down to the present 
day in the roughest outline, without making reference 
to the monuments on which it is the special business 
of this chapter to dwell monuments of ancient 
rulers who have left us nothing but names in a half- 
forgotten story, and their imperishable tombs. 

There are few stranger subjects for conjecture than 
the work of those old races who with the rudest 
appliances moved and set in position monstrous 
blocks of stone effecting by sheer labour of flesh 
and bone what might seem almost to demand a con- 
vulsion of nature. The purposes of their erections 
are sometimes obscure, as at Stonehenge ; but here 
in Brugh na Boinne, the great burying-place of 
pagan Ireland, we know at least the meaning of the 
vast sepulchres, at Knowth, at Dowth (ancient names 
both of them), and at New Grange, which beyond all 
reasonable doubt is Brugh itself, the " mansion " or 
dwelling place of the august dead. So august indeed 
were its associations that not the dead kings only 
were accounted to rest inside the mound, but Angus 
also Angus the Young, god of youth and love and 
music, so often renowned by the poets when in the 


story of legendary wars they showed gods from the 
Tuatha de Danann mingling and lending assistance 
to this side or that, just as Olympian beings helped 
the human fighters before Troy. But our concern 
here is with its historic significance rather than its 
place in myth. 

To reach these " caves " (if you set out from 
Dublin) it is necessary to go to Drogheda, about 
thirty miles north across the level plain of Fingal. 
King James rode it in one stretch from the hillside 
behind Oldbridge, and came in tired and hungry, 
complaining to Lady Tyrconnell that the Irish had 
run basely. " I see," said Lady Tyrconnell, who 
was an Irishwoman, " that your Majesty has won the 
race." James's road took him in through Swords, 
past the round tower and the abbey where Brian's 
body lay in state at the first stage of its funeral 
journey northwards to Armagh. But the railroad 
takes a short cut by a long bridge or mole across the 
estuary of the Swords river, at Malahide, and from the 
train you can see Portrane, where the most conspicuous 
object is a great asylum for lunatics, but where is 
also a ruined peel-tower, once, they say, used by 
Swift's Stella as a lodging when she came down here 
for summer bathing. 

The line skirts along the sea past Rush and Lusk, 
where an enterprising seedsman makes the sandhills 
gay with a bulb-farm acres of tulips and daffodils 
a-blow together and past Skerries, where you can see 
in the offing the little island Inish Patrick, where the 


missionary saint and his crew landed to get water and 
provisions. Ahead to the north you can see also 
on a clear day the glorious range of Mourne moun- 
tains purple or pearly beyond blue sea : there is not 
a prettier stretch of rail in Ireland, except the line 
down the Wicklow coast. But for some miles before 
you reach Drogheda it heads inland so as to strike 
the narrow neck of the Boyne estuary where the 
town is set astride of the river. 

Concerning Drogheda itself I shall only say here 
that you go through most of it, crossing the bridge 
in order to get to the left or northern bank, and the 
road which leads out to the battlefield. About three 
miles out, you come sharply down a hill, and there 
on the right is King William's Glen, with a road 
leading down the narrow defile and across a bridge, 
while on the left an obelisk tells how King William 
came near to be shot while reconnoitring the Irish 
position from a spot close by. 

The Irish were of course on the southern bank, and 
the bridge which gave its name to Oldbridge had been 
knocked away leaving the river for a barrier. The 
Boyne water where so much was decided still flows 
swift and deep, and even though a canal has been 
taken off at this point, its breadth cannot be much 
less than forty yards. For on the spring day when 
I first went to visit Brugh an angler was busy with a 
big rod, and though he threw a fine line, he could not 
cover the whole Water. Fortunate man to be fishing 
there ! the Boyne is famous among salmon rivers. 


Just opposite Oldbridge are the woods of Townley 
Hall, where King William's sword is still cherished as 
a relic. Beyond them the road and river part company 
the road making a sector to the great loop through 
which the Boyne curves on its seaward course before 
reaching the ford where Schomberg ventured and fell. 
One pushes on, up and up, for the river valley is en- 
closed by considerable eminences : and after about two 
miles a hillock is seen rising on the left hand of 
the road flat-topped, steep-sided, circular like a 
tumulus indeed, only, one would say, too big to have 
been constructed. Yet constructed it was, some two 
thousand years ago. 

Turning in from the road you climb the steep side, 
and find in the centre of the mound which covers 
about an acre a quarry of loose stones. This is the 
result of injudicious excavation ; yet it shows here at 
Dowth, better than you will see it at New Grange, 
the nature of these structures, hills rather than 
mounds, consisting of loose stones heaped within a 
retaining curb of enormous blocks laid lengthwise in 
a circle. So far as we can guess, when the tomb was 
completed there was nothing to be seen but a vast 
heap of stones piled up and filling a ring. But 
the beholder knew also that somewhere far in the 
recesses of the cairn was a vaulted burying place, 
though possibly the access was no less secret than it 
was sixty or seventy years ago when antiquarians set 
to work upon excavating what was then, and had 
been for ages, a grass-grown mound. I say possibly, 


for at New Grange the entrance shows regular archi- 
tectural features, and it is difficult to believe that they 
were ever designedly hidden. But, on the other hand, 
a passage in the " Wars of the Gael and the Gall," 
describing the spoil taken by Malachy and Brian 
when they entered Dublin after defeating the Danes 
at Glenmama, accounts thus for the accumulation of 

" There was not in concealment under ground in Erin nor in 
the various solitudes belonging to Fians and fairies anything that was 
not discovered by these foreign wonderful Danraarkians through 
paganism and idol worship." 

If New Grange were then outwardly as it is to-day 
no witchcraft, or paganism, or idol worship would have 
been needed to find a way to the sacred place. At 
all events, here at Dowth the Danes were before the 
antiquarians, and when these latter did, by dint of 
much quarrying, strike the passage, it led only to a 
robbed nest. Yet the nest is well worth seeing, and 
when you have got from a neighbouring cottage the 
key to a wicket gate (put on by the careful Board 
of Works), you will enter a narrow passage be- 
tween great upright blocks, each man-high, across 
which are laid transverse slabs of the same length. 
The passage is not ten yards long in all ; but even a 
few paces travelled with difficulty by candlelight, in 
the absolute dank blackness down this narrow path of 
Cyclopean building, seem to lead one into earth's very 
bowels, towards the lair of some monstrous and 
uncanny habitant. 


The passage ends in a vault, roughly circular, 
whose side walls are made, like those of the passage, 
by huge uprights, while the roof consists of other 
great slabs laid on them, and then on one another, 
overlapping inwards, till the last slab closes the 
aperture and completes the roof. It is built, in fact, 
as a child might build cards, but with units of struc- 
ture so vast that their mere bulk gives it solidity. 

Off the vault are three small recesses tombs, not 
quite so long as modern graves, for the ancients 
buried their dead in a contracted position, or burned 
them. In the centre of the chamber is a huge shallow 
stone basin used doubtless for some ceremony in 
connection with the burials. The stone is five feet 
across a trifling block compared to the vast rocks 
out of which this underground dwelling is built. As 
one pries round the uncanniness of the thing presses 
in on the mind. How it was done, why it was done, 
for what dead men, by what living ones, in how 
remote an age ? these questions grow into a sort 
of nightmare ; and I confess to a most unreasonable 
start when one of the two ladies in our party suddenly 
uttered a shriek. She was not prone to screaming, and 
she had seen it appeared nothing worse than a rat. 
Yet a rat that haunts the sepulchres of prehistoric 
kings is an eerie beast and eerie, too, was a mon- 
strous black spider of a kind unknown to me, which 
experts pronounced (for we captured it) to be a 
peculiarly fine specimen of a kind that inhabits only 
places of perpetual dark. 


But let us proceed with serious archaeology. From 
one of the recesses a small passage, also Cyclopean, 
for its floor consists of one long flag leads into a 
small terminal chamber just able to hold a man when 
seated. For this offshoot from the natural plan of 
a passage leading to a vault it is not easy to account, 
except on a theory which I put forward with all 
diffidence. Obviously, the approach and the vault 
must have been erected before the cairn was piled over 
them, and the place of burial thus formed was a kind 
of glorified cromlech. Indeed, certain cromlechs may 
be practically regarded as covered ways leading to a 
closed chamber all constructed of gigantic stones. 
Possibly the tomb stood thus for some while, and the 
passage leading to what is really a fourth sepulchral 
recess, or separate tomb, was then added to it. Yet 
possibly also the cairn may have been torn away to 
admit of the addition since whatever these builders 
lacked in those days, they must have had plenty of 

Elsewhere in the mound excavation has discovered 
other passages leading into other chambers, certainly 
of more recent date, for their walls are built up of 
small stones, and these may be simply under- 
ground storehouses or shelters such as are found in 
many of the old earthen forts. These, at all events, 
were probably burrowed into the cairn and possibly 
by workers who did not know of the main Cyclopean 
passage and its vault. 

What, then, is the story of this great palace of the 


dead this tremendous monument of power and 
veneration? More must be seen and described before 
this can be discussed, but the date can be fixed within 
fairly ascertainable limits. For the great stones in 
the passage and the vault are rudely ornamented with 
sculpture work done before they were set in their 
places, as is proved by the fact that both here and at 
New Grange some of the decorated portions are 
virtually hidden, and some are in places where it 
would have been impossible to work on the stone. 
The ornament consists in rude spirals and wheel- 
crosses, sometimes, too, in representation of natural 
objects ; one leaf is carved, not incised, but standing 
out from the stone. Now whatever men wrought 
these sculptures must have had tools of bronze, or 
more probably of iron, to work with ; and iron only 
began to be used in Ireland about the Christian era. 

The full development of this decoration must 
be seen at the greater tumulus, New Grange, some 
two miles further along the same road. But before 
one leaves Dowth it is well to take a view of the 
valley, for these old graves were all set on places 
of wide prospect, and there are pleasant flashes of 
the Boyne to be seen half-a-mile off, some hundred 
feet below you. Moreover, near by, to the south-east, 
is an old churchyard which contains a monument 
to a much more recent hero of the Gael than any 
who sleeps in the tumulus. In this parish was born 
John Boyle O'Reilly, the Fenian, who was sent to 
penal servitude in Australia, escaped thence to 


America, and there made his name illustrious as a 
writer. His body lies in Boston to-day almost an 
Irish city where his great paper 'The Pilot exercised 
its influence honourably and chivalrously. Here at 
the place of his birth an inscription in Gaelic com- 
memorates his qualities, and execrable sculpture dis- 
honours the piety which erected the memorial. It 
is a strange thing to reflect that the art of stone 
carving, which we see in hopeful beginnings at New 
Grange and in strong mediaeval development at 
Monasterboice, should have never come to a full 
flowering in Ireland. Yet the whole history of the 
country is one of arrested development, of genius 
finding adequate expression only outside of its native 
home. O'Reilly's epitaph was written thus in 
Boston : " Ireland gave him birth, England gave 
him exile, America gave him fame." And the 
thought which lies behind those words has a reference 
far wider than to the case of Boyle O'Reilly. 

The banks along the road were starry with prim- 
roses on the first day when I made my way to New 
Grange. It stands even higher than Dowth, and 
the horse toiled up a steep gripe of a hill before we 
were on the level stretch, overshadowed on each side 
with elm trees, which skirts the great pasture in 
which the mound stands. On our left was the 
Boyne, much nearer us than at Dowth, and in the 
river meadows were two small tumuli, emerald green 
that spring day. What they hold is unknown, for 


no one has opened them : but probably no treasure, 
for the Danes were here in 862 A.D., as is recorded 
in the annals of Ulster. 

" The cave of Achadh Aldai and of Cnodhba, and 
the cave of the sepulchre of Boadan over Dubhad, 
and the cave of the wife of Gobhan were searched by 
the Danes quod antea non perfectum est on one 
occasion that the three kings, Amlaf, Ivar, and Auisle, 
were plundering the territory of Flann, the son of 

Cnodhba (Cnowba) is Knowth, another great 
tumulus about a mile from New Grange, which has 
never been entered in modern times ; the sepulchre 
of Boadan at Dubhad, Dooad, or Dowth, is what we 
have written of : the wife of Gobhan Saor (the 
Vulcan of Irish mythology) had her burying-place 
in the great rath on the south bank above Drogheda, 
which is shown in Mr. Thomson's drawing with a 
modern fort on top of the ancient garth. But the 
Cave of the Field of Aldai is doubtless what has yet 
to be described : namely, the great hillock of New 
Grange, overgrown with copse, which rises from the 
crest of the field to the right of the road, with four 
great standing stones erect like sentinels before it. 

These stones, of which the largest is eight feet 
high above ground, and nearly twenty in girth, 
belonged to a circle of thirty-five, set at regular 
intervals about the cairn. The circumference of 
this circle would measure nearly a quarter of a mile. 
The cairn itself is, like that at Dowth, girdled by a 


confining curb of blocks, eight or ten feet long, 
laid lengthways ; and on top of these is built a low 
wall of dry masonry. If the thing were merely a 
pile of loose stones we should wonder at the expense 
of labour : but it is more by far. Here we have, 
as we have not at Dowth, the true original entrance, 
which is rather above the level of the ground ; and 
under it is placed a great stone, its outer face wholly 
covered with a rich and deep cut design : the oldest 
example, probably, of that spiral ornament which the 
Celtic race in Ireland was to develop so profusely. 
Over the entrance is another carved stone, like a 
lintel, wrought with a kind of gate pattern in relief. 
The entrance itself consists of two upright blocks 
and one transverse leading into a passage more than 
twenty yards in length, which here also is formed by 
gigantic stones. In some places the superincumbent 
weight has listed them, and you must crawl now where 
formerly a tall man could walk ; but as you reach the 
end, the supports are upright and you edge your way 
without difficulty 'until suddenly space is about you, 
and your candle shows vaguely the domed roof of 
a vault almost twenty feet high. Here again are 
three recesses, and in two of them large oval stone 
basins receptacles for what was left of the dead. 
In a sense, no mausoleum could be grander. With 
all our appliances to-day, what expense of labour 
and skill would be required to construct here on 
the hill-brow such a tomb ? to drag from the quarry 
those monstrous blocks, to set in position first the 



uprights, the long line of the passage, the circle for 
the walls of the chamber with inset recesses every 
stone standing a man's height above the ground ; 
and then, starting from the ground level, to lay flag 
on flag in a ring, each flag overlapping that below it, 
yet not so far but that it can support the next ; until 
the ring, gradually narrowing, makes a dome inside 
and is closed by a single stone on top of all ? Will 
anyone say how men with no instruments but levers 
and their muscles accomplished the task ? There, 
however, it stands. 

And inside, wreathing itself about this colossal 
architecture, is manifest the early decorative fancy, 
almost puerile in its task of carving laborious patches 
of ornament without any general decorative idea. Yet 
the designs are effective in themselves, good types for 
development, lozenge, chevron, and herring-bone or 
dog-tooth, but above and before all the coiled spiral. 

When was it done, by whom and for whom ? 
Irish tradition, as I have said, certainly assigned 
Brugh as a dwelling-place to Angus, the Apollo of 
Gaelic myth, most glorious among the heroes of the 
mysterious Tuatha de Danann who after their defeat 
by the Milesians withdrew from daylight into the 
recesses of the earth and who are still there, fairy 
folk, the people of the Sidhe. Aldai was ancestor of 
the de Danann kings, and probably Irish legend with 
the advance of ages assigned the most venerable origin 
that it could think of for these mounds, and called 
the place Achadh Aldai, Aldai's Field. 


Yet the place was almost certainly the royal burial 
place of Milesian kings. The Seanchas na Roilic, or 
ancient tract describing the graveyards of Ireland 
(incorporated in the Dindsenchas or general topo- 
graphy, attributed to Amergin, a bard of the sixth 
century), tells us that the kings of Tara were buried 
in Brugh ; and the name (in its genitive form) still 
cleaves to the place. The late Father O'Laverty 
(unlucky that I was, who neglected a chance of 
meeting the genial old scholar) was told by a 
woman, who knew nothing of the Irish tradition, 
that the field in which the mound stands was called 
Bro Park that is, Pdirc Erogha, the field of Brugh. 
And Mr. Westropp has come on the name in various 
old records of the townland, dating from the sixteenth 
century onward. There were no kings in Tara 
except the Milesians great enough to merit or obtain 
such a tomb ; and if Mr. MacNeill be right, the 
Milesians were only in Tara from about 100 A.D. 
onwards. Conn, the Hundred Fighter, was buried 
here, and Cairbre Liffechair, who destroyed the 
Fianna, to name two of those specially recorded in 
ancient verse. Yet curiously enough, tradition is 
most definite, not concerning the kings who were 
buried in Brugh, but concerning the king who 
refused to be buried there. 

Cormac MacArt, who came to the throne in 
254 A.D., was the wisest of Ireland's kings in the 
early day. Under him flourished the great military 
organisation called the Fianna or Braves, whose 

D 2 


leader, Finn MacCumhail, with his warriors has 
filled a whole realm of Gaelic legend. Cormac him- 
self, though he fought many battles, was more 
illustrious by arts of peace ; and a great body of 
tradition assigns to him the authorship of three great 
works. Two of them have come down to us in a 
form which at all events was attributed to Cormac's 
authorship so long as a thousand years ago. These 
are the text of the Brehon laws, which were the code 
of Ireland, and the Teagasc Riogh, or Instruction 
for a King, written, as the Four Masters say, " to 
preserve manners, morals, and government in the 

It is also stated that Cormac made a great advance 
in the arts of life, for he first established a watermill 
in Ireland. This invention had come to the Roman 
world in the last days of the Republic, and was no 
doubt diffused through Britain by Roman settle- 
ment ; and with the Roman world Cormac was 
certainly acquainted, since the Annals of Tighearnach 
state that he spent three years abroad with his fleet. 
For although, as we have said, the early Irish were 
not a maritime people, and probably depended first 
on the Phoenicians and later on the Danes for their 
commerce, they had ships of war, and in the fourth 
and fifth centuries at least made free use of them in 
piratical warfare. 

A guess of modern writers connects this journeying 
of Cormac' s with the recorded fact, not accounted 
for in Irish annals, that he was a Christian before 


Christianity was preached by Patrick : Christianity, 
according to the annalists, earned him his death. 
Here is how the Four Masters tell the story, in their 
entry for the year A.D. 266 : 

" Cormac, the son of Art, the son of Con, after having been 
forty years in the Government of Ireland, died at Cletty, the bone 
of a salmon having stuck in his throat, through the Sheevra, whom 
Mailgenn the druid induced to attack him, after Cormac had turned 
from the druids to the adoration of God ; wherefore a demon 
attacked him at the instigation of the druids and gave him a painful 

Here now is the further detail which connects 
Cormac with the story of Brugh na Boinne : it is 
taken from the Seanchas na Roilic : 

" And Cormac told his people not to bury him at Brugh (because 
it was a cemetery of idolators), for he did not worship the same 
God as any of those interred at Brugh, but to bury him at Ros-na- 
righ with his face to the East. He afterwards died, and his ser- 
vants of trust held a council and came to the resolution of burying 
him at Brugh, the place where the kings of Tara (his predecessors) 
were buried. The body of the king was afterwards thrice raised to 
be carried to Brugh, but the Boyne swelled up thrice so that they 
could not come ; so they observed that it was violating the judg- 
ment of a prince to break through this testament of the king, and 
they afterwards dug his grave at Ros-na-righ as he himself had 

So the story came down in Irish, modified here and 
there through the ages, until finally a man of genius 
took it in hand, and made of it in English what I 
trust the most fanatic Gael of us all will claim for a 
glory of Irish literature. Samuel Ferguson's " Burial 
of King Cormac " tells how Cormac disowned " Crom 


Cruach and his sub-gods twelve," and how, when the 
druids heard his saying, 

' They loosed their curse against the king, 

They cursed him in his flesh and bones ; 
And daily in their mystic ring 

They turned the maledictive stones.' 

The poet tells then of Cormac's death, his dying 
injunction, and the debate over his bier held by the 
servants. But let him speak uninterrupted : 

* Dead Cormac on his bier they laid 
" He reign'd a king for forty years ; 
And shame it were," his captains said, 
" He lay not with his royal peers. 

" His grandsire, Hundred- Battle, sleeps 
Serene in Brugh ; and all around 
Dead kings in stone sepulchral keeps 
Protect the sacred burial ground. 

" What though a dying man should rave 
Of changes o'er the Eastern sea ? 
In Brugh of Boyne shall be his grave, 
And not in noteless Rosnaree." 

Then northward forth they bore the bier, 
And down from Sletty side they drew, 
With horsemen and with charioteer 
To cross the fords of Boyne to Brugh. 

There came a breath of finer air. 

That touched the Boyne with ruffling wings ; 

It stirred him in his sedgy lair 

And in his mossy moorland springs. 

And as the burial train came down 
With dirge and savage dolorous shows, 


Across their pathway, broad and brown, 
The deep, full-hearted river rose ; 

From bank to bank through all his fords, 
'Neath blackening squalls he swelled and boiled, 
And thrice the wondering Gentile lords 
Essayed to cross, and thrice recoiled. 

Then forth stepped grey-haired warriors four ; 
They said : " Through angrier floods than these 
On linked shields once our king we bore 
From Dread-spear and the hosts of Deece. 

And long as loyal will holds good, 
And limbs respond with helpful thews, 
Nor flood, nor fiend within the flood, 
Shall bar him of his burial dues." 

With slanted necks they stooped to lift ; 
They heaved him up to neck and chin ; 
And, pair and pair, with footsteps swift, 
Locked arm and shoulder, bore him in. 

'Twas brave to see them leave the shore ; 
To mark the deepening surges rise, 
And fall subdued in foam before 
The tension of their striding thighs. 

'Twas brave, when now a spear-cast out 
Breast-high the battling surges ran ; 
For weight was great, and limbs were stout, 
And loyal man put trust in man. 

But ere they reached the middle deep, 
Nor steadying weight of clay they bore, 
Nor strain of sinewy limbs could keep 
Their feet beneath the swerving four. 

And now they slide, and now they swim, 
And now, amid the blackening squall, 
Grey locks afloat, with clutchings grim, 
They plunge around the floating pall ; 


While as a youth with practised spear 
Through justling crowds bears off the ring, 
Boyne from their shoulders caught the bier 
And proudly bore away the king. 

At morning on the grassy marge 
Of Rosnaree, the corpse was found ; 
And shepherds at their early charge 
Entombed it in the peaceful ground. 

A tranquil spot a hopeful sound 
Comes from the ever youthful stream, 
And still on daisied mead and mound 
The dawn delays with tenderer beam. 

Round Cormac spring renews her buds ; 
In march perpetual by his side, 
Down come the earth-fresh April floods, 
And up the sea-fresh salmon glide. 

And life and time rejoicing run 
From age to age their wonted way ; 
But still he waits the risen Sun, 
For still 'tis only dawning Day.' 

There, ladies and gentlemen, you who do not know 
the work of Samuel Ferguson, there is poetry for 
you ; sinewy stuff, a man's work ; with hints in it, 
perhaps, of contemporary English influences (notably 
in the beautiful verse about the " breath of finer 
air ") and hints of the English eighteenth century 
writers in its close, so like Collins in its cadences ; 
yet, in its essential quality, absolutely and un- 
challengeably his own, and in the great manner : 

" With slanted necks they stooped to lift, 
They heaved him up to neck and chin." 


So the great poets, and they only, write, in terse 
phrases that give the full physical realisation of 
action ; sculpturing, as it were, in verse. How like 
sculpture is that phrase, " the tension of their striding 
thighs." And then, emerging from the insistent 
detail of the struggle, listen to the triumphant lift in 
the verse which tells of victory the easy metaphor 
that gives a pause as if for indrawn breath, before we 
come to the swelling culmination : 

" Boyne from their shoulders caught the bier, 
And proudly bore away the king." 

" A tranquil spot." It is, and a beautiful. Brugh 
na Boinne, the imperishable mound of old pagan 
monarchs, looks down from its high hill-shoulder on 
to the curve of the river and Cormac's unmarked 
resting-place, somewhere on the further bank. But 
Rosnaree (the name loses its pure magic when you 
translate it, The King's Point) is only one spot, 
beautiful, indeed, yet not specially conspicuous, in 
the most glorious range of river landscape that is 
known to me. Above Navan the Boyne is sedgy and 
weed-choked ; but if you follow the tow-path down 
from Navan, between canal and river, you will find 
yourself heaping scorn on the Thames. Here are 
wide spaces of smooth water, with steep wooded 
banks beyond them banks ambered, when I saw 
them last, with all the tones of autumn. But (since 
Boyne is a famous salmon stream, and way must be 


made for the running fish), here are no high lock- 
gates damming back the water in long sluggish flats. 
Everywhere the run is brisk, and constantly broken 
by low weirs, under which long races swirl and 
bubble in a way to tantalise every angler, and delight 
even those who do not know the true charm of a 
salmon pool. When I came in sight of Dunmoe 
Castle, a ruined Norman keep of the sixteenth cen- 


tury, perched high on a bare grassy cliff above one 
of these lashers, it seemed that here was surely the 
finest point of all ; but after I had passed Stackallen 
bridge, and was travelling now down the left bank, I 
learnt my error. Under the woods of Stackallen 
House, canal and river merge into one broad 
stream, closely pent by precipitous banks, variously 


wooded. Below the lock, where the canal rejoins 
the main water, a pool begins, stretching some 
two hundred yards straight down, until it is closed 
by a cliff of ochre-tinted rock, bold and bare 
among the foliage. So swift is the rush from the 
lasher, so far does it swirl down into this reach, 
that the water has no look of dulness ; it is a pool, 
not a stretch. I walked on quickly, eager to see 
what lay round the sharp bend, and suddenly towards 
me there swung round the cliff a barge, brightly 
painted. The line of its sides, the fan-shaped curve 
of the wave spreading outwards and backwards, as the 
craft drew towards me, had a beauty in that setting 
that only sight could realise. If any spot of the world 
is enchanted, it must be that water ; and as you round 
the cliff it is more beautiful still. For there, under 
Beaupark House, is a cliff answering that on the 
Stackallen bank, and a precipitous lawn beside it ; 
and the river, bending south here at right angles, 
then breaking out again, stately and splendid, on its old 
line due east, has movement and stillness all in one ; 
it is a sliding, swirling mirror for banks which well 
deserve such a glass to echo their perfection. 

A friend of mine told me, in a far-off part of 
Ireland, that he had found on the Boyne the Fianna's 
bathing-place. When I first saw the cliff below the 
lock I thought I knew his discovery ; when I turned 
the corner and saw the round pool below Beaupark 
I was sure of it. White limbs of heroes surely 
flashed and sported in that lucid peril. 


Beyond Beaupark, but on the left bank of the 
river, one reaches the grounds of Slane Castle, and 
behind it rises the hill of Slane, on the top of which 
St. Patrick on that famous Easter-Eve lighted his 
Paschal fire, which was seen by the Pagan king and 
Druids in Tara. Here was the monastery too, of 
which no trace remains to-day, yet which was once 
so famous that in the middle of the seventh century 
Dagobert II., heir to the throne of France, was sent 
thither to be educated in the great college, so close 
to the palace of the Ardrigh. 

Rosnaree, where Cormac found his resting-place, 
is a good deal further down-stream, beyond Slane 
Castle and the bridge of Slane, where William's right 
wing crossed. Slane is fully six miles above Old- 
bridge, where the obelisk marks the actual field of 
battle. And Mr. Thomson's sketch, drawn from the 
right bank, two or three hundred yards below Old- 
bridge, shows, so far as I can make out, the most 
interesting ford of all. For just where the water 
breaks over a shallow, above the upper island whose 
willow-trees are in the middle distance of the picture, 
Schomberg led his men into the ford, and was shot 
down in mid-stream, ending gloriously a long career 
of honour. 

William himself crossed nearly a mile lower, below 
the islands, where even in low water fording would 
still be difficult. The fiercest fighting must have 
been from the village of Oldbridge, just behind where 
the sketch was made, to the rise of the hill above the 
lower ford of William's crossing. 


I shall not dwell on the history of the battle, 
though nothing in it should be painful to any reader, 
except indeed to champions of the Stuarts. " Change 
Kings," said Sarsfield, " and we will fight it over again." 
Yet had William been on the south bank with some 
23,000 men, ill-armed and inexperienced, absolutely 
without artillery ; had James been on the north with 
an army of 36,000, highly trained and well equipped, 
backed by a great park of guns ; William would 
certainly have made a better fight of it, but the 
result could scarcely have been other than it was. 
The turning movement was too completely suc- 
cessful. Before the battle began William had 
10,000 men at least across the bridge at Slane, 
menacing James's left wing and his line of retreat 
from a distance of only three or four miles. 

In truth, if William had been in James's place it is 
likely there would have been no battle of the Boyne 
at all. Not to fight would have been wisdom : 
to fight and run away was folly as well as cowardice. 
And the worst of all was to detail off Sarsfield, the 
best fighting leader on the Irish side, for no other 
purpose than to command the bodyguard of a 
general who did not intend to risk himself in action. 

However, fought the battle was, and to this day 
staunch Protestants in the north procure bottles 
filled with the Boyne water to baptise their babies. 
They do well in a sense, for the cause which won 
at the Boyne was the cause of Protestant ascendancy ; 
and what that meant was plainly defined by the penal 
laws against Catholics. The cause which lost, on 


the other hand, was the cause of those who wished 
to undo the Cromwellian settlement which Mr. Lecky 
has described in a few summary phrases. 

" The worship which was that of almost the whole native popu- 
lation was absolutely suppressed. . . . All, or almost all, the land 
of the Irish in the three largest and richest provinces was confiscated 
and divided amongst those adventurers who had lent money to the 
Parliament, and among the Puritan soldiers, whose pay was greatly 
in arrear." 

This simple arrangement, inaugurated by Cromwell, 
was, as regards the land, confirmed in the main by the 
English Acts of Settlement and Explanation under 
Charles II. The Irish Parliament, when James came 
to the throne, set itself to undo all this. Freedom of 
religion was to be permitted ; tithes were to go to 
the pastors of those who paid the tithes. But land 
which was held under a title derived from Cromwell's 
confiscation was to be re-confiscated for the adherents 
of James. The victory at the Boyne upheld the 
Cromwellian dispensation, and for that reason, as 
the old balladmonger sings : 

" The Protestants of Drogheda 
Had reason to be thankful 
That they were not to bondage brought 
They being but a handful." 

On the contrary, by the assistance of William and 
his armies, they, " being but a handful," were es- 
tablished and maintained on the necks of the Irish 
population, whom they brought into as complete a 
bondage as the world has ever seen. 

Cromwell's work began at Drogheda, and made it 


plain from the first that his object was a war of 
proscription and extermination. Because the garrison 
resisted, they were massacred by his orders to the last 
man : nor were the non-combatants spared. There 
had been many sieges in the Civil War in England, 
but no such termination had been seen at any one of 
them. Such a deed would sink deep into memory 
if it stood alone ; but it was only the prelude to a 
system under which many hundreds of the Irish were 
by Cromwell's orders sold into slavery in the Indies, 
while at home the religion of the people was pro- 
scribed, and their lands were taken from them. If the 
nation had forgotten this it would have ceased to be a 
nation ; the very currents of its life beat up against such 
oppression. At the Boyne, and in the other battles 
which followed, a fierce spasmodic effort was made to 
shake off the servitude ; but under William and Mary 
the tying-up was renewed and completed. From 
that day to this the history of Ireland has been the 
history of continuous struggles to break loose bit by 
bit from the trammels : and we, in the last few years, 
have seen what is virtually the rescinding of a land 
system which dates from Cromwell and William 
from Drogheda and from the Boyne. 

These are harsh memories, but at the Boyne there 
is no evading them. Yet my recollection of Drogheda 
is chiefly of mere beauty. I had walked down from 
the battle-field, and, looking about me, realised for 
the first time that the town had been walled on both 


sides of the river, and that Cromwell's storming was 
of the wall on the southern bank. That, doubtless, 
is why in the northern town the noble St. Lawrence's 
Gate, with its two lofty towers, stands intact to-day : 
a singular relic of fortification as it was understood 
under Queen Elizabeth. But the beauty of the 
evening tempted me away from antiquarian ex- 
ploration to the wharf side. Looking up the 
river, toward the sunset, all was a riot of colour : 
sea-wards in the gloaming, the great railway viaduct 
was faint like a spider's web against the sky. In 
that light, every spire looked beautiful and the 
final defeat of Cromwell's cause is strangely evident 
in the multitude of Catholic places of worship. One 
church in particular, St. Mary's, on the southern bank 
charmed me by its proportion and its well-placed 
ornament. Only, when one drew near, the eye was 
affected by a sense of deadness. It craved what is 
lacking in almost all modern Catholic churches life, 
the handiwork of the artificer. If we could only give 
back to modern Ireland so zealous, so profuse in 
church building, so eager to lavish of the best upon a 
religion all the more* loved because of the generations 
of sacrifice which religious consistency has entailed 
if we could only give them back the craftsmen 
whose work, where it has escaped mutilation, mocks 
the incompetence of to-day ! If we could recover for 
a few years the men who wrought the crosses at 
Monasterboice, or those great architects who planned 
and executed the beautiful buildings of Mellifont ! 


No account of the Boyne valley would be even 
perfunctory which omitted to tell of these two great 
monasteries, and no review of Irish history would be 
intelligent which did not give at least some idea of 
the religious life of which they are, perhaps, the most 
typical monuments. They stand not precisely in the 
valley itself, but on the long slope of high ground 
rising northward, down which William marched his 
army in the last days of June, 1690; and King 
William's Glen with its beautiful wooded pass (down 
which the bulk of the Dutchman's army debouched 
on the ford) will lead you on your way. There is a 
mile or so of ascent, and at the top you find a sign- 
post (how rare in Ireland and how welcome !) pointing 
to Mellifont. The name is noteworthy. Those who 
settled here in the valley of the Mattock were mainly 
foreign monks, speaking the common tongue of Latin 
Christianity ; and they called their * bee-loud glade ' 
by a Latin name ' Honey fountain.' Not much is 
left of their great monastery, yet more than enough 
remains to show that these builders were working 
after a fashion wholly other than that of the native 
Irish, and using a more elaborate and developed art. 
Here, roughly, is the story. 

In 1139 St. Malachy O'Morgair, Archbishop of 
Armagh, journeyed to Rome, praying the Pope to 
grant two palliums, or archiepiscopal stoles, for the 
Irish Church : and on his way he sojourned at 
Clairvaux with St. Bernard, then probably the 
greatest religious force in Europe, whose influence 


was not only personal but exerted through the famous 
Cistercian order, newly springing into power. Close 
friendship sprang up between the two saints (how 
close, St. Bernard's writings testify), and Malachy 
left certain of his followers to be trained in the 
Cistercian rule. Five years later these men, along 
with some foreign monks among whom was one 
" Brother Robert, skilled in the art of building," 
came to Ireland and founded Mellifont being helped 
by a grant in land and money from Donough 
O'Carroll, King of Oirgialla or Oriel, which then 
embraced the present counties of Armagh, Monaghan, 
and Louth. So was introduced into Ireland the 
twelfth century style of building an immense 
advance on anything that had existed before. 

It seems clear that up to that date stone masonry 
was little used by the Irish for dwelling places or 
fortification. Forts were of earth or loose stone ; 
houses of wattle and plaster, or of timber. Life was 
lived greatly in the open. But this does not mean 
that the mason's art and the stoneworker's were not 
known. The round towers, all of them built before 
a stone of Mellifont was laid, attest a rare skill : and 
probably ever since the days of Patrick churches had 
been built of mortared work. How skilful Irish 
architects and masons had come to be within their 
own limitations is sufficiently proved by Cormac's 
chapel at Cashel : but Irish buildings, though superb 
in their decoration, were strangely unambitious in 
scope and in plan. The church had got no further 


than a division into nave and chancel ; and it was 
never of any considerable size. Realising all this, 
one will understand how great a work Mellifont must 
have seemed, with its cruciform church, containing a 
semi-circular chapel in each transept (such as Brother 
Robert had known and perhaps had built at 
Clairvaux) ; with its cloisters, its chapter house, its 
heavy gate tower, and the beautiful octagon of its 
Baptistery whose rich and gracious ornament can 
still be gaessed at from what fragments remain. It 
was a great thing in Ireland, and a new one. 
By its close ties with the continent of Europe it 
stood aptly for the new influences which were 
drawing the Christians of Ireland into fuller 
harmony with the ecumenical rule and discipline of 
the papacy. It was something less insular, more 
cosmopolitan, than the old centres of Irish religion 
had been : and when the Normans conquered 
Ireland they naturally regarded establishments like 
Mellifont as centres almost of their own race. Yet 
it must be said that in this case also the new 
became amalgamated with the old, Hibernis ipsis 
Hiberniores ; and in 1322 it was decided that no 
man of English descent should be admitted among 
the monks of Mellifont. 

If Mellifont represents here in the Boyne valley 
(where all things are represented) the first incoming 
of a peaceful invasion, the advent of a stricter 
ecclesiastical discipline, and a more developed 
civilisation than had existed in Ireland before, 

E 2 


Monasterboice, on the other hand, is a superb type 
of the absolutely Irish religious communities. It was 
founded in the sixth century by St. Buithe or 
Boetius, whose name it preserves (for Monasterboice 
is Mainistir Bui the , the Abbey of Boetius) ; and 
for more than five hundred years it was one of the 
great seats of purely Irish literature and learning. 
Here where it stands, some three miles north-east of 
Mellifont, are all the characteristic features of one of 
the old Irish monasteries. Here is the great cloig- 
theach or bell-tower, one of the hundred scattered 
through Ireland, so strongly built that many of them 
still remain almost intact, though ten centuries may 
have gone by since their erection. This one rises 
1 1 o feet in height, but its top has been shattered 
probably since the fire which destroyed it in 1097, 
and destroyed with it " several books and valuables " 
some book, perhaps, like that of Kells, some crozier 
like the famous jewel of Cong. Under this great 
pillar the monastic buildings crouched, huddled 
together. The dwelling places, of course, are gone, 
leaving no more trace on the ground than if tents 
had been pitched there ; and this very impermanence 
of the actual dwellings testifies to the nature of Irish 
monastic communities mere casual groups of in- 
dividuals, attracted to one place by the fame of some 
saint or scholar, but bound by no common rule. 
But churches, here as elsewhere, remain to be seen. 
The larger of the two is only forty-five feet long, 
and is early work, though it has reached the stage of 


development when chancel is marked off from nave 
by a round arch. The other ruin, still smaller, 
is said to be of the thirteenth century, and if 
so it must have looked mean indeed beside the 
contemporary splendours of Mellifont. But neither 
Mellifont nor any community of Norman founda- 
tion would match the special glory of Monaster- 
boice the two huge crosses of richly sculptured 

The greater of them stands twenty-seven feet high, 
and three stones make up the whole of it. One of 
them, the cap of the Cross, represents in itself a 
church of the ancient Irish type with high pitched 
roof, such as may be seen at Killaloe or, nearer 
hand, at Kells. The arms of the cross and the ring 
which embraces them are sculptured in panels, as is 
also the long slender shaft, each panel figuring some 
scene of Scripture history. Weather and mutilation 
have defaced the carving so that the story is not 
easily deciphered : but the richness of all this high 
embossed stonework loses little by its lack of defi- 
nition. Yet the second and lesser cross of Muire- 
dach has even greater interest, for here the sculpture 
with its elaborate tracery and its representation of 
man and beast is hardly impaired. The compart- 
ments and the figures are larger, and we see in them 
a curious historical document ; for here are Irish 
clerics and Irish warriors figured in the habit of 
their time clerics mustachioed as bravely as the 
warriors ! And the time itself is indicated, within 


certain limits of conjecture, by an inscription which 
read : 


" Pray for Muiredach, by whom the Cross was 

And since the annals record two Abbots Muire- 
dach, of whom one died in 844 and the other in 
924, we have to choose between the ninth century 
and the tenth for the date of this monument. 

A general notion of the decorative value of the 
work may be gathered from Mr. Thomson's sketch 
of the cross at Clonmacnoise. But the special interest 
of Muiredach's Cross is that here sculpture seems far 
advanced on its way to a free artistic treatment of the 
figure : here we find the Irish genius displaying itself 
not only in the formal perfection of inlaced design, but 
in the nobler effort to render life and movement. The 
panels which represent such subjects as the expulsion 
of man from Eden have been rightly praised for their 
simple dramatic power : while their rudeness detracts 
in no way from the beauty of the whole, the rich 
intricacy of light and shade over the embossed surface. 

Scholars flourished, here as elsewhere, beside the 
artists. Flann of the Monastery, who died in 1056, is 
recorded by the Four Masters as " paragon of the Irish 
in history, poetry, eloquence and literature." But this 
is not the place to expound upon this topic, which can 
be treated more fully in my chapter on Clonmacnoise. 


I have skimmed now over the associations which 
glorify the lower valley of the Boyne : the story of 
Tara needs a chapter to itself. One word more is 
needed of counsel to whoever visits Monasterboice. 
Follow the road a few hundred yards past the 
ruins, till you crest the hill and see northward ; 
for here you shall find spread out before you a 
truly glorious view of the central plain. South of 
you is the Boyne valley, and probably you will see, 
thirty miles off in the distance, the mountains of 
Dublin andWicklow, beyond the rich region of Bregia 
and the plain of Fingal. But the beauty of the view 
is northward and westward. All along your right on 
the east the sea sweeps, and across the north are 
mountains ; the Carlingford hills rising near Dundalk, 
and beyond and behind them the great mass of the 
Mourne mountains, with sea embayed among their 
feet, and here and there a white town shining. When 
I saw it last, that landscape seemed enchanted ; 
shadows lay on the bold outlines of Slieve Gullion, the 
detached mountain which stands like an outpost to the 
west of the main range. Slieve Donard was only a 
mist, but while I watched, again and again a sudden 
shaft of sunshine would bring some mass of it into 
solid relief. Those mountains for centuries marked 
the limit of the English Pale : Dundalk, lying at the 
hither end of the great pass which is called the Gap 
of the North, was the frontier town ; and from near 
Dundalk William's army followed James through 


Ardee to the Boyne. From this hill its march could 
have been watched for two days. 

Yet as I looked my thought was not of history, 
but of the beauty that lay before me, the glory of 
blue sea, the glory of mountains, distant enough to 
be blue, not too distant to be impressive ; and a 
greater glory still, the characteristic beauty of central 
Ireland, that long expanse of undulating plain, the 
* coloured counties ' spread out before me, infinitely 
diversified with enclosing hedges, which, merging into 
indistinctness in the distance, still gave a chequered 
sheen to the greenness, growing more and more 
crystalline and transparent, like the tints of coloured 
glass, as the plain receded northwards and west, 
away and away to the limit of vision, far past the 
mountains more beautiful even than they. 

That indeed was Ireland far more truly and 
characteristically Irish than any moorland of the 
West. A country rich in produce, much beloved, 
full of kindly country people ; a country full of 
history for not the Dutchman only marched his 
army there, but Englishman and Norman too, a 
hundred times, and the chiefs of the Gael a thousand, 
since the day when Maeve led her Connaught host 
on the quest for the Bull of Cuailgne, whose 
pasturage was over there by Dundalk, somewhere in 
the mountainous district of Omeath and since 
Cuchulain, harassing Maeve's armies single-handed, 
slew his comrade Ferdia in desperate battle midway 
across the plain at the Ford which still keeps the 


vanquished in remembrance Ath Fhirdiadh, Ferdia's 
Ford, now Athardee, or Ardee. Such are the associa- 
tions with which the plain is peopled. And when, 
standing on the high brink, as it were, of the Boyne 
valley, you look out over Ireland with a mind 
coloured by such memories, enjoyment of the land- 
scape will grow keener, and will leave, I think, 
more seed of pleasure behind it than is to be gathered 
by those who see merely what the outward eye can 
show them. 

Cavalier of Ca*tg, 




THE Boyne monuments, though of such antiquity 
that they seem cotval with the very rocks and hills, 
stand in reality for an end, not a beginning. They 
associate themselves with the culmination of pagan 
power, almost with the era which St. Patrick found 
existing in the fifth century. Beyond these associa- 
tions rise dim shapes of legendary persons and battles, 
remote and vague, yet linked to certain definite 
places in Ireland. And nowhere are the vestiges of 
this prehistoric past more traceable than about the 
beautiful little village of Cong, and thence across the 
horse-breeding plain which skirts the east shore of 
Lough Corrib, back to the cathedral city of Tuam. 
The whole region is fairy haunted ; on Knockmagh 
("The Hill of the Plain"), which, rising some few 
hundred feet out of that level commands a strangely 
sweeping view, Finvarra, king of the fairies, keeps 
his court. No wonder ! For if, as some of my 
friends hold, what we call fairies are beings of a 
different and more ancient race who dwell about this 


earth, and of whom we humans are most easily 
aware in places where the ancient way of life has 
been little disturbed, and where old centres of fierce 
emotion still radiate something that can be felt, 
unobscured by the pressing in of new vitality, there 
is hardly a tract in Ireland more primitive in its 
manners and its beliefs, hardly a district more un- 
altered. 1 Or if, as the educated crowd believes, 
imagination readily invents shapes to people very 
ancient ruins, and is busy about dwelling-places of 
the forgotten dead, here we have cairns and tombs 
and dwellings that might well be tombs, which, 
standing almost as they were at first created, tempt 
the dullest fancy to bring back life into what is so 
unchanged and so little understood, so palpable yet 
so ghostly. 

The whole country is dotted over with rath and liss, 
cahir and cairn. East of Tuam, where the soil is 
good, these early builders fenced themselves in with a 
roughly circular embankment, digging out a ditch and 
throwing up a mound. That was a rath. But where 
stone abounded to hand, they piled stones in a ring 
for a simple breastwork, and such forts are cahirs. 
These things are through all Ireland in thousands, 
protected partly by superstitious fears. But here, 

1 Half way between Knockmagh and Galway lives Diarmuid 
ua h-Urnaighe (Dermod Hurney), famous among shanachies and 
reciters of verse in the West, not only for the mass of literature 
which his memory preserves, but for the beauty and dignity of 
his declamation. His picture adorns the first chapter of this book. 


about the Corrib, there is frequently found what com- 
pletes our picture of that old life, a place of refuge 
or shelter inside the rath or cahir itself, tunnelled far 
under the ground. Within a few miles of Tuam 
fifteen of these caves, or souterrains (as archaeologists 
call them), have been discovered. Somewhere in the 
enclosure or garth of the rath a small opening leads 
into a chamber perhaps twenty feet long, formed 
by walls of dry masonry with slabs laid transversely 
for a roofing. From this, at an angle, through a 
small opening, another passage leads into another 
chamber ; but the entrance is a trap. It is blocked to 
about half a man's height by a platform constructed 
in the inner chamber so that one entering must 
scramble up his head coming first and his arms 
cramped in the hole. If a friend, he emerged on the 
platform and was helped by rude steps to descend into 
the inner apartment; if an enemy why, there was 
someone waiting on the platform to knock him 
handily on the head. 

There is no reasonable doubt that these chambers 
which are found widely distributed in Ireland, but 
rarely so numerous as in this district were places of 
shelter for the living, just as it is certain that in 
Brugh na Boinne we have very similar structures, but 
on an ampler scale, erected for the abode of the dead. 
And it seems likely that the builders of those great 
monuments, living themselves in houses of some 
perishable material, timber or wattled osier, made for 
their dead glorified copies of the safest and strongest 


fastnesses they knew adding a grandeur by the vast 
bulk of the stones they used. Dowth and New Grange 
are only the final development of a class of sepulchral 
monument of which conspicuous examples exist in the 
Corrib region. 

The hill of Knockmagh, over the demesne of Castle 
Hacket, is crowned with a cairn under which, legend 
says, lies Ceasair, one of the chieftainesses who ac- 
companied the first colony to Ireland forty days 
before the flood ! If so she sleeps undisturbed, for the 
cairn is intact. But on a lower shoulder of the hill, 
near the road from Tuam to Cong, is another cairn, 
and here, not long ago, men were quarrying stone 
when suddenly they disclosed a grave. In the rough 
heap was a cist, formed by a level slab below and a 
level slab above it supported by upright stones. 
What they did, was to run away. Some time later a 
courageous man opened the cist and found it to con- 
tain a number of bones, and a small urn of earthen- 
ware, golden-brown in colour and delicately traced 
with patterns. Such an urn was in Ferguson's mind 
when he wrote : 

" A cup of bodkin-pencilled clay 

Holds Oscar ; mighty heart and limb, 
One handful now of ashes grey." 

But my friend at Tuam, into whose possession this 
particular relic has come (by means which all antiqu- 
arians would appreciate and justify), believes that it 
contained not ashes but food for the dead warrior 
who earned so conspicuous a tomb. Labour was not 


spared, for the heavy slab covering the cist was of red 
sandstone, and must have been fetched a matter of 
fifty miles ; and here is a resemblance with New 
Grange, for one of the great stone basins there is of 
granite, and must have been fetched from Wicklow 
or some place even more distant. But the point to 
which attention should be called is that here we 
have the first idea out of which sprang the Boyne 
monuments and the others like them on the Lough 
Crew hills in Meath. The sepulchral chamber of 
large slabs of rock covered over by a pile of loose 
stones was doubtless familiar before men thought of 
building a house and gateway for the dead, and then 
heaping the cairn over this gigantic grave. 

Who the hero was whose tomb stood over against 
Ceasair's, and whose urn Dr. Costello has conveyed 
into safe keeping, no one can tell us. It is otherwise 
with the greater cairns at Cong : for near by there 
was fought the great battle of Moytura, which lasted 
four days, and surged across the whole neck of land 
which divides the northern shore of Corrib from the 
southern of Lough Mask. The story of that fight 
is recounted to us almost as precisely as any battle in 
the Iliad, and in the same vein. Giants and magi- 
cians took their part in it, and things were done 
beyond mortal power to do to-day. But, because 
marvels are told in the Iliad, does anyone doubt now 
that Troy stood and Troy fell ? The story of the 
battle of Moytura is perhaps the remotest thing 
in Irish history that comes down to us circumstan- 


tially described ; and there is no reason to doubt that 
it took place, or that it was, as it is represented 
to have been, a struggle between contending races 
for the mastery of Ireland. 

Tradition tells of five invasions or colonisations 
of Eire, and traces them all back to an origin 
in the Mediterranean. Parthalon and Nemed, 
who led the first two colonies, are only shadowy 
names. Part of the Nemedian colony went back to 
the Mediterranean and served there as slaves set to 
carry earth in wallets from plains to enrich the hill- 
slopes with vineyards. So, we are told, they got their 
name of the * Firbolgs ' men of the leathern sack. 

Wearying of their task, the Firbolgs came back to 
Ireland and they possessed the land : a low-statured, 
dark-skinned, dark-eyed people. Forty years later, 
according to the annals, came a new body of invaders, 
the Tuatha de Danann. They also were of Nemedian 
stock, but had settled in Attica (whereas the Firbolgs 
went to Thrace), and had learnt magic from the 
Greeks till they eclipsed their teachers. When Syria 
overran Greece they fled, and settled in Scandinavia. 
Here possibly is some track of historic truth, some 
echo of the Persian wars ; and the Tuatha de Danann 
should be allied to Homer's Danai. But to Ireland 
they came from the north : a tall, fair, blue-eyed race 
of magicians, whom the wind wafted over the seas 
by enchantment, till they settled on the Connaught 
mountains in the likeness of a blue mist. They 
demanded from the Firbolgs a share of Ireland, and 


when it was refused, they fought. Sir William Wilde 
(who built for himself Moytura House on that part 
of the battlefield which looks over Corrib) holds that 
Nuad, leader of the de Danann army, pitched his 
camp on Ben Levi (vulgarly called Mount Gable), 
the flat-topped mountain which pushes in between 
Mask and Corrib, and that Eochy, King of the Fir- 
bolgs, rested with his power on Knockmagh. 

It is not for me to contend either with or for an 
archaeologist. W r ilde's identification of places in the 
battle rested on his own interpretation of the story. 
Tradition appears in his day to have been as vague 
as now relating the monuments merely to some 
great fight. But about the existence of the monu- 
ments there is no question. One stands Mr. 
Thomson has drawn it a mile or two from Cong 
on the high road to Cross : another five miles further 
west rears up its bulk above the old road leading to 
Bal Unrobe. This latter cairn, from which we looked 
across Lough Mask and saw all the hollows of the 
threatening hills in the Joyce country filled with 
streaming vapour, phantasmally sunlit, as if cloudy 
hosts of the de Dananns were still resting there, 
embattled, to descend on the plain, marks the final 
defeat of the Firbolgs. Here, they say, Eochy fell, 
slaying his three slayers : and victory rested with the 
de Dananns. Yet the cairn is unexplored, though 
much pulled about by rabbit-hunters. In the great 
cairn near Moytura House, some of these sportsmen 
told me, a rabbit will often disappear absolutely, 


having found a pass through the loose-piled stones 
into the recesses of the still unopened cave. One 
only of these cairns was opened, and of that 1 leave 
Wilde to tell the story. 

The fight lasted five days in all, and on the first 
day victory lay with the Firbolgs : the cairn of 
Ballymagibbon is identified by Wilde with that 
which was erected under King Eochy's eyes for a 

Ballymagibbon Cairn. 


memorial of that triumph, each man of his 
bringing a stone and the head of an enemy. 

" Next morning before the second day's fight 
began, King Eochy, unattended, went down into a 
certain well to perform his ablutions, and while there 
observed three of the enemy overhead. Eochy was 
saved by one of his own men who slew the three, but 
died immediately from his wounds on an adjoining 


hillock. The Firbolgs, coming up to look after 
their king, then and there interred the hero who so 
bravely defended him ; and each taking a stone in 
his hand, erected over him a monumental cairn. The 
well is not named in the ancient account of the 
battle ; but the little hill on which the conflict took 
place is called 'Tulach an Triiir, the Hill of the 
Three, and the monument, Cam an Aonfhir, the Cairn 
of the One Man. And there " (continues Wilde in 
the true spirit of Jonathan Oldbuck) " they both 
remain to the present day the deep well, now 
called Meeneen Uisge, in a chasm of the limestone 
rock through which the floods of Mask percolate 
into Lough Corrib the only drop of water that 
is to be found in the neighbourhood, and so deep under 
the surface that the king must have looked upwards 
to see his enemies * overhead.' Immediately adjoining 
it on the south-east stands the hillock, crowned with 
a circle of standing stones, 176 feet in circumference, 
in the centre of which are the remains of the cairn : 
and the monument is still called Cam Meeneen Uisge." 
This cairn was opened under Wilde's directions ; 
the enthusiastic antiquary (father of a famous and 
most unlucky son) standing over the workers and 
exhorting them with recitals of the story, not in vain. 
For at last there was disclosed a small cist containing 
an urn in which were the incinerated remains of 
human bones, which had once, as Wilde believed, 
perhaps not without warrant, supported the bones of 
King Eochv's brave defender. 

F 2 


I must be candid about this cairn. The name of 
Meeneen Uisge did not survive in the memory of 
those whom I spoke with about the cairn of Bally- 
magibbon. But I am assured since that some of the 
older people still give this name to one of the under- 
ground rivers ; and if so, the cairn with its ring of 
stones should be easily identified by some one who is 
more willing to spare time from his fishing than was 
the unworthy topographer who hereby makes his 
confession. I did explore another cairn, at some 
expense of trouble, but it was the wrong one. It is 
easy to go wrong in the multitude of these monu- 
ments of that great battle. 

The De Dananns conquered, but the Firbolgs were 
by no means blotted out : they are by far more trace- 
able in history than their conquerors, who passed 
vaguely into legend, a race of the demigods. To 
Firbolg builders is attributed the great cahir of Dun 
Angus which crowns a cliff in Aran with its double 
ring of Cyclopean walls and its chevaux de frise of 
pointed stones. Clare was possessed by them, until, 
in the end of the fourth century, Milesians of the 
Dalcassian stock the great Thomond clan con- 
quered and subdued these Firbolgs, but probably did 
not drive them off the rocky lands of Burren. Even 
after Christianity came, they were well recognised as 
a distinct people ; for it is related that the O'Kellys 
came up under the leadership of St. Brellan from 
the shores of Lough Neagh to take land from the 
Firbolgs, and, having defeated them, occupied Hy 


.Many, the region between Galway Bay and the 

Mr. MacNeill indeed points out that Dugald Mac- 
Firbis, last of the hereditary professional historians, 
wrote in the seventeenth century a list of Firbolg tribes 
occupying land, at the time of Patrick's coming, 
and of these there were forty-seven. Admitting 
that MacFirbis used the term Firbolg loosely to 
cover all the vassal peoples who were under Milesian 
rule, it seems probable that when St. Patrick came 
all the mountainous regions of Connaught and Clare 
that is, the far West were occupied by this 
earlier race, and as yet unconquered by the Milesian 
kings. In later days sovereignty changed frequently, 
but probably the race has altered very little. Dr. 
Costello thinks that in the district north of Tuam, 
called in Irish Conmaicne Cinel Dubhdn, the folk still 
keep the short stature, the dark eyes and hair of the 
primitive stock, whose vanquished king rests under 
the cairn on the shore of Lough Mask behind Captain 
Boycott's famous residence. So the two ends of Irish 
history meet at least locally. 

This earliest stratum of historical deposit in the 
region east and north of Lough Corrib is the special 
concern of this chapter. Yet there are other fields 
of interest, only too ample, to be explored and indi- 
cated. Once across the Shannon, you are in a 
different Ireland from any that exists to the east of 
that great natural dividing line ; for in Connaught 


neither Dane nor Norman nor Englishman (except, 
perhaps, about Sligo) has left a distinctive trace. 
They have come, indeed, they have drawn money out 
of the country ; but if they have stayed, they have 
been fused into the Irishry. Recalcitrant Connaught 
has received from alien civilisation only the railway, 
the workhouse, and the gaol. What her own 
civilisation was able to do for her own people may 
be better judged, perhaps, at Cong than any other 
place ; for Cong, now an obscure village visited by a 
few tourists and fishermen, was once a great school of 
learning, the resort of many students and not less 
famous for the skill of artificers, whose priceless work 
in metal rivals that of any age or country. This is 
not too bold a brag to make concerning the Cross of 
Cong, that marvellous shrine which was fashioned 
in the twelfth century by the orders of Turlough 
O'Conor, the High King. What the monkish 
illuminator did with pencil and colours in the Book 
of Kells, another monk here in the West did with 
infinitely fine tracery of drawn metal and with inlay 
of precious stones. And just as the cross at Mon- 
asterboice makes a kind of complement to the Book 
of Kells, so that both must be considered together by 
whoever wishes to judge the degree to which purely 
Irish craftsmanship attained in the Boyne valley; 
so here the Cross of Cong should be studied in con- 
nection with that other different yet very similar 
masterpiece, the chancel arch at Tuam. And since 


Tuam is on the way to Cong, let us first write of 
Tuam. 1 

Not many visitors from the outside world come to 
Tuam, I think, and the loss is theirs ; for no- 
where in all my journeyings did I see and hear 
so much of interest. Yet this means, in part, that 
nowhere else was I under the guidance of an anti- 
quarian who was also an Irish scholar and a sports- 
man and, above all, one to whom nothing seemed 
alien that was a part of Irish life or Irish history. 
My task is only to put down a few siftings from the 
rich mine of his discourse. 

East of Tuam, on the road to Miltown, we went 
to see souterrains, but saw also Muilionn an Leip- 
reachain, a fairy mill, such as are not uncommon 
in this porous limestone country, among the tur- 
loughs in which it abounds. The turlough is a 
boggy hollow, always flooded in winter, but in the 
summer drained off into underground rivers by 
slugga, or swallow-holes. Here on the Miltown 
road was a turlough on our right, from which 
a small watercourse ran trickling till it was carried 
by a culvert under the road and emerged on the 
left, where a wide rocky bed showed how con- 
siderable a stream it must be in winter. But a 
little distance off, under a clump of thorn trees, the 

1 I must not be taken as advising any one to go to Cong by rail 
who can get the steamer from Galway. But at least the rail 
journey gives a chance of visiting St. Jarlath's cathedral. 


watercourse ended ; and standing there, by the 
chasm where the limpid water sank out of sight, one 
seemed to hear the humming and whirling of busy 
wheels at work in the recesses below. Myth-making 
fancy could have no more obvious suggestion ; and 
legend tells how in the old times people left their 
corn overnight by the mouth of these mills and came 
to find it ready ground for them in the morning, till, 
one evil night, some covetous thief stole a poor 
widow's corn, and the fairies, in disgust with humanity, 
ceased their good offices for ever. 

For this occurrence history gives no date. But a 
little further on the same road, at Kilbannon Church, 
we came on the track of St. Patrick ; the print of 
his two knees is shown near the shattered round 
tower, erected where the Apostle left his disciple 
St. Benen whose disciple again was St. Jarlath, 
Tuam's founder. In this direction also are the ruins 
of an ancient nunnery standing near the Clar-e-Galway 
river ; it was founded by a daughter of King 
Turlough O' Conor, who became its abbess ; and I 
should know nothing about it but that I went to fish 
an excellent pool in the river just below, and noticed 
the road hedged with crab-apple trees very beau- 
tiful in the late autumn. My antiquarian's theory 
was that these apples were degenerates, escaped 
from the trim orchard l which had once surrounded 
the nunnery in days when there was tillage and 

1 At Ross Errilly, near Headford, are hedges of wild plums 
cot sloes probably a similar survival. 


gardening where now bullocks roam in undisputed 
possession of the rich pasture. 

Yet the bullocks' reign is challenged, for about 
Tuam land is being bought by small tenants, and 
where these make an oasis among the big graziers' 
holdings, crops are to be seen perhaps the beginning 
of a new and much-desired economic era. Let us 
note also as a fact of modern history that the 
Clare River is one of the most singular rivers 
in Ireland, Once a slow stream meandering through 
bog, it now flows in many reaches straight as a canal, 
but rapid and swirling, along a deep-cut bed hewn 
to the very rock in the time of some relief works. 
Thus the land is better drained and less exposed to 
floods ; the salmon have a better spawning ground ; 
and for once the Board of Works seem to have 
done the right thing. But that was a long time 

Between the era of Boards of Works and that of 
royal Irish ladies founding convents, much history 
has to be filled in ; and a step backwards is afforded 
by the leacht, or monumental standing stone to be 
seen a mile and a half out on the Claremorris road. 
The inscription reads : "Pray for the souls of James 
Lally and his family, 1673." It is curious, first of 
all, to find this Gaelic custom of erecting such ceno- 
taphs surviving into the seventeenth century one 
more proof how little Connaught was altered, even 
when it began to use the English tongue. But my 
concern is rather with the family than with the tomb. 


Lally is a corruption of the Irish name ua Maolla- 
laidh (O'Mullaly), and the heads of this sept were 
once princes in Hy Many. In the sixteenth cen- 
tury they were still people of importance, for two of 
the name were Archbishops of Tuam. In 1673, 
after the Restoration, James Lally was a landed 
gentleman with estates about his place of Tullina- 
daly, not far from where his leachtis erected. But his 
grandson, Captain Lally, sat in James's Parliament, and 
when war came, fought on the losing side at Aughrim, 
and followed Sarsfield into exile forfeiting the family 
estate of Tullinadaly. This Lally died of a wound 
received at the siege of Montmelian, and so England 
was finally quit of one rebel. But his brother Gerald, 
who had accompanied his flight, married in France and 
transmitted the hereditary claim and the hereditary re- 
sentment to a son, who, ennobled for brilliant ser- 
vices at Fontenoy and elsewhere, chose for his title 
Lally de Tollendal. Not one in a thousand of those 
who know that name recognise Tullinadaly in its 
French disguise ; and perhaps not one in ten readers 
of history know that the French general who came 
so near to wrest India from the English was the son 
of an Irish rebel, doubly an enemy of England, like 
those who turned the day at Fontenoy. 

Lally's services to France were requited by the loss 
of his head. But his son repaired the family fortunes, 
and having defended the Bourbons in their days of 
adversity was rewarded after the Restoration with a 
marquisate. If you look for Ireland's glories in the 


eighteenth century, you will find them everywhere, 
except in Ireland. 

At Tullinadaly there is only a farmhouse now ; 
but the fair after which the place is called 'Tulach na 
Ddi/e (the Hillock of the Assembly) still continues. 
It is a very curious instance of the force which 
tradition exercises in Ireland that, although the fair- 
green is three miles out of Tuam and remote from 
any shop or public-house, no persuasion has availed 
to remove this annual gathering into the town ; 
buyers and sellers still preferring to resort, even at 
some inconvenience, to the spot were their fathers 
and forefathers bought and sold before them. 

I have followed the fortunes of a name from the 
days when the Lallys were kinglets in Hy Many to 
the Flight of the Wild Geese, and later. In like 
manner, many passages in the chequered centuries 
are called up by the famous Abbey Knockmoy, which 
lies also within easy reach of Tuam, but on the 
westward. In 1189 a party of Normans under 
Almeric St. Laurence pushed into Connaught. They 
were few but brave and mail-clad the equivalent 
for some expedition of to-day which, armed with 
repeating rifles and machine guns, goes out to 
conquer a country of African spearmen. And like 
many such an expedition they met with disaster ; Cathal 
O' Conor, named Cromh Dearg, or The Red Hand, 
overwhelmed them in the bog which still borders 
the river, killing out all but two ; and here, as a 


thankoffering for his victory, he built an abbey for 
the Cistercians. 1 In the church antiquaries pore with 
interest over the trace of frescoes on the chancel 
walls. The design (still traceable, though the colour 
is all but clean gone) speaks of a later period than 
Cromh Dearg's ; but doubtless the beautiful build- 
ing itself and the graceful east window was the 
work of Irish builders in the twelfth century much 
defaced and spoilt four hundred years later when the 
banished monks returned for a while in some inter- 
mittency of persecution. They returned, but not in 
their old strength or splendour, and here, as else- 
where, there is a pathetic trace of failing state in the 
blocking up of aisles so as to form the whole church 
out of what was only the chancel in the pristine plan. 
Yet at Knockmoy, as elsewhere, so much of the 
structure survives that one inclines to ask why, in a 
country where so much ecclesiastical building is done, 
these ancient remains should not be again restored 
and revived. The answer is, unfortunately, that all 
have been used (and abused) as places of burial, and 
the soil is a charnel house. Here in Abbey Knock- 
moy the ground is paved with tombstones many of 
which, by a custom still prevalent in Connaught, bear 
trademarks the smith has his hammer, the wright 
his tools, and so on. Families have acquired pre- 

1 The abbey is derelict, but St. Bernard, the great saint of the 
Cistercians, is still honoured here, and on his festival, August 
20th, people make pilgrimage to Knockmoy, more especially the 
fishermen from the Claddagh in Galway. 


scriptive right, the place is defended against any 
cleansing by a strong sentiment which I saw illus- 
trated elsewhere. 

Driving from Tuam to Headford we stopped at 
the ruined church of Donaghpatrick, where St. Patrick 
placed yet another disciple at a place which seems to 
have been the limit of his westward journeyings 
through the plain of Connaught. Here was a grave- 
yard, with a new addition lately walled in. But, 
exploring round the old church, we came on an 
opened grave, by the side of which were lying five 
skulls and the fragments of several coffins, as well 
as the tombstone marking the family name. A 
little further on the road we met the funeral ; and 
I daresay the man would not have died easy without 
the knowledge that the bones of his kin would be 
rooted up and exposed, to make elbow room for 
his own remains among them. 

That same drive brought me past many landmarks. 
Near Donaghpatrick itself is a crann'og on a small 
lake, where once the princely O' Flaherties had their 
fortress. Descendants survive on the spot, though no 
longer as lake dwellers. But at Headford, a whole 
chapter could be written. Near by the town, standing 
amid swamps on the Black River, is the famous Fran- 
ciscan monastery of Ross Errilly, built in 1351. In 
its spacious precinct all is ruin and desolation, where 
once were learning, religion, and hospitality ; but the 
building survives so completely as to render easily 
reconstructed in imagination the whole scheme of its 


monastic life. Not merely the ground plan, but 
every wall is left almost intact ; only the ornamenta- 
tion was destroyed in 1651 when the Cromwellian 
soldiers rooted like boars through it. Misfortune 
had been constant with the Brothers since the first 
suppression in 1538 ; but the Earls of Clanricarde lent 
a constant protection, and again and again purchased 
back the confiscated lands. Under this shelter the 
friars, six times driven out, six times returned, till 
their last and final banishment in 1753 rendered 
inevitable when an Irish Catholic, in pursuit of a 
private feud, laid information against the Earl of that 
day for harbouring monks. The incident is only too 
characteristic of Irish history. 

I noted as very typical of the present day and its 
changes that the big demesne of the St. Georges at 
Headford, which Caesar Otway some sixty years ago 
stopped to admire and praise, has recently passed 
into the hands of a successful merchant from Tuam, 
who, I fear, does not inherit the " unshaken loyalty 
and Protestantism " of the Colonel St. George whom 
Otway visited. In Headford itself a plantation of 
Protestants has withered away : yet the place has not 
resumed its ancient style, Ath Cinn ; the language of 
the plantation has rooted itself, though not the 

Facts like these meet one all over Connaught. 
The whole body of the people is Catholic : and 
though the land is mostly owned by Protestants, no 
Protestant family seems to thrive on the soil. In all 


of Connemara hardly a single mansion is in the 
hands of " the old stock " that is to say, of land- 
lords dating back for a few generations. East 
of the Corrib, things have not gone so far : but 
when land purchase begins to operate, it is likely 
that the country will pass altogether to the 
Catholics who already control its whole adminis- 
tration. Even now the cathedral of Tuam is 
roomy on a Sunday, and very soon it may be able 
to hold the entire Church of Ireland population in 

I hope, however, that no one will tax the Church 
of Ireland with vain expense for the very excellent 
work that was done naturally with meagre means 
on this illustrious building. Some centuries ago 
probably in Jacobean times the ancient pre-Norman 
structure had fallen into ruin and was restored in such 
fashion that the short chancel became a vestibule, and 
the glorious chancel arch was made into a western 
doorway. In 1878 a more intelligent remodelling 
was effected ; the more recent body of the church was 
turned into a chapter house, a new nave was built to 
the west, and the chancel is now restored to its true 
position. Over the access to it springs the great 
arch, wrought in red sandstone ; for early in the 
twelfth century Irish builders could not carve with 
ease in hard stone. Yet in all other points they had 
attained mastery ; and this semi-circular arch, which 
is, in truth, six concentric orders of arches, narrowing 
as they recede, displays a bewildering intricacy of 


design and ornament. Wind and weather through 
centuries of exposure have blurred the exquisite work, 
in which figures, animal and human, blend into the 
conventional pattern ; cobblers have, in careless 
generations, chipped pieces off to sharpen their tools ; 
yet still, there it stands as a monument of what Irish 
civilisation had attained before any Norman set foot 
in Ireland. 

The arch was made by unnamed workmen when 
O-h-Oisin was mitred abbot in Tuam, and Turlough 
O'Conor ruled as king in Connaught. Their names 
are inscribed on the stone cross which now stands in 
the market-place where Lake drew rein in 1798 from 
the races of Castlebar but I spare my English readers 
that story. The cross shows as a cross of the Irish 
pattern (with a wrought circle embracing the arms), 
but it is not as it was designed by the artist. Eight 
slabs of sculptured stone completed it, and of the six 
which made the tall slender shaft three are missing ; 
and those which now are in place were only recently 
brought together one from its place in the chimney 
of a house in the town. Another is to be seen, 
detached, in the cathedral : and it is hard to under- 
stand why this stone is not with the others or rather, 
why the cathedral authorities refuse to give it up and 
why the original design is not restored at least in its 
proportions by letting in new uncarved sections of 
stone. At present what was once a work worthy of 
the artist who wrought the arch a tall slender 
structure thirty-two feet high now stands disfigured 


and dumpy, interesting only for its minute interlacing 
of carven scroll-work. l 

The art of stone carving has not wholly left this 
western country, or at least it lived till within recent 
memory. At Cong, the cloister was restored by Sir 
Benjamin Guinness, with a great deal of tact, and the 
modern pillars there were executed by a local artisan, 
of a family who had followed the craft from 
generation to generation. Still, no more than good 
craftsmanship is there to be seen. At Tuam the 
case is different. The Catholic Cathedral well 
deserves a visit, though in truth it is seen to most 
advantage as one fishes down the broad valley of the 
Clare river, where its tower, solid and dignified, yet 
removed from the commonplace by a decoration of 
pinnacles, makes a noble object in the landscape. The 
whole structure is very wonderful considering that 
it was begun before even the days of emancipation. 
The old Archbishop who projected the building, and 
lived to see its completion, was a man of high 
courage ; and a story (which I heard from a bishop 
who was not a Protestant) tells how the Protestant 
bishop of that day came to survey the broad 
foundations, and after a glance at their scope, asked, 
" Who is the fool that has done this ? " That was 
what he said : but a day or two later an envelope 

1 The cross could never stand unsupported to its full height. It 
was evidently pinned against the cathedral, for the mark of dowels 
is on its arras, and the side which should be next the wall is un- 



enclosing simply a hundred pound note reached the 
sanguine builder ; and though the sender never 
revealed himself, he was shrewdly guessed at. But 
whether a bishop of the Church of Ireland did this 
or no, Catholics will tell you that a deal of Pro- 
testant money is in that huge fabric. The fact adds 
interest to the building, which unlike Sir Thomas 
Deane's academic restoration of St. Jarlath's, the 
older cathedral, really expresses the life and ideas 
of an Irish community at a given date. That 
expression is due chiefly to the work of one man, not 
an artisan, but an artist. 

All round the exterior are heads in stone ; all 
along the groining of the nave's roof are heads in 
plaster heads treated for the most part in a spirit of 
grotesque, yet even where the caricature is strongest, 
unmistakably the heads of Irish country-folk. The 
work is of Cruickshank's date, and some of the 
modellings instantly reveal his influence, transferred 
to work in stone ; but in the best of them there is 
more than Cruickshank ever put into a drawing. 
Especially in the east front there are two contrasted 
types, sculptured as terminals on either side of a 
window. One of them represents a man with large 
but receding forehead, prominent eyes, and long 
beard ill-disguising the almost disappearing chin 
pure type of a religious enthusiast. This, tradition 
says, is the portrait of a devout peasant who secured 
the honour of drawing the first load of stones to the 
building. Opposite is a face still more boldly 


caricatured almost the traditional Punch, with nut- 
cracker nose and chin. But look at your Punch, and 
you will see in him at once, more unmistakably than 
anywhere else, the Irishman. The shrewd, cynical, 
deep-recessed eyes, from under the brow with its 
heavy eyebrows and heavy bosses above them (how 
admirably modelled !), speak of a type that has 
always existed in Ireland, not always in harmony with 
the religious authorities. Such a man might have 
been the Clare schoolmaster who wrote the scandalous 
and most witty poem which he called Mediae Noctis 
Consilium ; such a man was, if tradition does not 
lie, the carver of these grotesques, who set his own 
likeness here among the rest. He lacked training, 
doubtless ; and the heads on the roof in the interior 
show a lack of the technical tricks which are needed 
to produce the desired effect at that height. But 
when he died in Tuam, somewhere about the 
middle of last century, a true artist was lost to 

It is a pity that he did not carve the statue of 
MacHale, the Lion of St. Jarlath's, which stands 
outside the western doorway. The great Archbishop 
was a recognised power in his own day ; but it is 
only now that we are beginning to understand how 
far-sighted was the old warrior, who would not allow 
a " National " school to be established in his diocese, 
and fought fiercely to keep alive in Ireland the 
language and the customs of the Irish. 

Well, the language has perhaps a better chance in 

G 2 


Tuam to-day than in any other town of its size ; 
and when you see the market thronged with men in 
the old-fashioned cutaway frieze coat with its square 
lappel (and even here and there one in the knee 
breeches), every man of them with " a fine tongue 
of Irish " at command, you know at least that you 
are in a country about whose nationality there 
cannot be any possible mistake. That it may be so 
always, and more so ! 

I have been tempted to enlarge on Tuam, because 
a part of my purpose is to emphasise how much that 
is worth seeing in Ireland goes almost unnoticed. 
But the real centre of this chapter was meant to be 
Cong : Cong with Moytura close behind it, Cong 
with its beautiful abbey ; Cong endeared to me 
because on the first day of my fishing there I caught 
the biggest trout of many seasons. Seventeen 
pounds we called him, for brevity and elegance, 
though his real weight was sixteen and three 
quarters. My seven thousand blessings on Michael 
Lydon of Galway who sold me the " wagtail " minnow 
which he took ; on Johnny Lydon who gaffed him 
for me, and his father, Tom Lydon, who handled the 
boat ; and on the little draper's shop in Cong where 
I bought the very slender trace, undesigned for such 
uses, which nevertheless brought him safely to the 

I do not mean to say that the casual visitor can 
hope for such another fish at least, that he is at all 
likely to get one. But beyond a doubt, with fair 


luck he may get in a few days' fishing brown trout 
quite heavy enough to content a reasonable man, and 
with exceptional luck may have something to brag of 
for the rest of his days. A brown trout over ten 
pounds is far rarer than a salmon over thirty, and 
fish of that weight are killed every year on Mask or 

In the same way, I do not suppose that any other 
traveller is likely to have quite the chance which 
befel the artist of this book " my grief," as the Irish 
song says, " that I was not of his company " when 
the steamer took him from Galway to Cong. I was 
driving from Headford at the same time, and even 
country people greeting my driver commented on that 
wonderful sky. Such a sunset does not come once 
in five years, and I waste no words in trying to con- 
vey its indescribable pageantry. But to see it as 
Mr. Thomson saw it, while the steamer ploughed 
northward up the long narrow lough, with all this 
gorgeous array of crimson and scarlet, gold and yellow, 
mauve and purple, hung behind and among the great 
mountains which close the upper end of the lake, 
beyond its innumerable " inches " and islands, was in 
all truth the chance of a lifetime. Such a chance 
could not come to many travellers. But by the very 
nature of that journey, which brings you to Cong 
about sunset all through summer and autumn, there 
is every chance of approaching a scene of rare beauty 
under the most beautiful conditions. 

Those who live at Cong challenge comparison for 


this upper end and broad basin of the lake against 
Killarney. Not so lovely, I should say ; but perhaps 
bolder, more rugged, and, so far, more impressive. 
But I have no space to write of scenery. The essen- 
tial point to note is that Cong stands on a neck of 
limestone country, about four miles broad, which 
divides Lough Corrib from the huge basin of Lough 
Mask : and under and through this neck Mask's great 
sheet of water sends a subterranean river that breaks 
out of the ground in a famous chasm a mile or so from 
Cong. The most curious comment on this physical 
fact is afforded by the great canal, cut to connect the 
lakes, which lies there now a dry bed of boulders. 
The porous limestone rock refused to hold the 
water as, to us, wise after the event, it seems 
natural to expect. But, though the canal is dry, 
there flows past Cong, and out beside Lord Ardilaun's 
great house into Corrib, a river so white and pure as 
only a spring bursting from the rock can be. And 
beside that clear broad river, enclosed in the angle 
between it and a smaller stream not less limpid, stand 
the ruins of what was once perhaps the most famous 
abbey of the West. 

Cong is said to have been founded in 624 by 
Domnall MacHugh for St. Fechin, its first abbot ; 
and in the year 1010 it was one of the five sees of 
the province of Connaught. In 1 114 the abbey was 
burned, and at some time in that century it was 
rebuilt for the order of Augustinians. To this 
retreat Rory O'Conor, the last titular king of all 


Ireland, betook himself when he retired in 1 183 from 
the kingship, leaving his son as regent. Here also he 
died in 1 198, though his remains were carried to the 
Shannon, and laid in Clonmacnoise, to have the 
benefit of St. Ciaran's privilege. But his son, 
Maurice the Canon, " most illustrious of the Irish for 
learning psalm-singing and poetry," was buried at 
Cong : and so too was King Rory's daughter, Nuala, 
Queen of Uladh. No slab or memorial indicates 
their graves. But the chapel tomb of the Berminghams 
marks well a later stage in the history of Connaught. 
This Norman stock within a very short space became 
Hibernicised so completely that they dropped their 
ancestral name, and became MacFiorais (that is, son 
of Piers), from whom spring the Pearses innumerable 
in the West. But not, let it be noted, the Persses, 
one of Galway's " tribes " descendants from an 
English merchant settler, who lived inside the 
ring-fence of city walls, and prayed every Sunday : 
From the ferocious O* Flaherties, Good Lord, deliver 
us I 

The most ancient memorial of the past to be 
found at Cong is the old stone cross, whose shaft lies 
in the abbey, but its base, with a plainly-cut modern 
shaft and cross, stands in the village street, and on 
this base are recorded the names of two abbots 
Niahol and Gillibard O'Duffy. Concerning this 
inscription the custodian of the abbey told me a 
tale. There was a boy near Cong, and he was stupid 
and could learn nothing, but spent all his time in the 


fields : and in a certain field one day he fell asleep 
with his flannel jacket for a pillow. That evening he 
came home, and his father was reading the newspaper. 
The boy asked for it and read every word that was 
on the paper. They took him then to the Protestant 
rector of the parish, and there was not a book in the 
rector's house that the boy could not read. Then 

Cong Abbey. 

they sent him down into Munster (where the famous 
teachers of the classics were) to learn the Greek and 
Latin, but there was no master that was able to teach 
him anything that he did not know before. And 
when Queen Victoria was making the college in 
Galway, who did she send for but the same boy to 
be the head of it? O'Beirne Crowe, that was his 


name ; but in the latter end he died in want, for he 
did not take good care of himself ; and he was the 
first man that read the inscription on the cross that 
is in the street at Cong. 

From the same authority (the abbey's custodian) 
I learned some interesting details concerning the chief 
glory of Cong in old days, which now is Cong's no 
longer the famous Processional Cross. But first let 
me quote from Wilde's description of this master- 

" It consists of an oaken cross covered with plates of bronze and 
silver, washed in many places with a thick layer of gold, and 
having interspersed golden filigree work of most minute character 
around its front centre. All the front and back plates are 
elaborately carved with that intertwined pattern, or strap work, 
with grotesque animals, which is specially characteristic of Irish 
ornamentation. . . . The outer corners of each compartment 
were originally studded with precious stones, glass, or figured 
enamel paste in white and dark blue colours. Supported upon a 
raised boss decorated with niello in the centre, there is a large 
polished crystal, under which was placed originally the relique sent 
from Rome to King Turlough O'Conor in 1123. . . . Around 
its sides there are a series of Latin and Irish inscriptions, both in 
the Irish character ; the letters are punched into the silver plate, 
apparently by dyes or types. . . . The foot of the cross springs 
from a highly decorated dog's head, which rises out of a globe, 
the ornamentation of which in detail is a marvel of the workman- 
ship of its own or any other period. Beneath that wall is a 
decorated socket, into which was inserted the staff, or pole, with 
which the cross was carried. The inscription affords unerringly 
the history of this magnificent relique." 

The main inscription, twice repeated, is a Latin 

verse : 

" Hac cruce crux tegitur qua passus conditor ortiis." 


" In this cross is the cross enclosed on which the 
Founder of the World suffered." But the chief 
interest lies in the Irish inscriptions, which bid us 
pray for Turlough O' Conor, king of Erin, for whom 
this shrine was made : to hold a remnant of the true 
cross which he had procured : and for Muiredach 
O'Duffy, the Senior of Erin (that is, for the Arch- 
bishop of Connanght), whom the Four Masters de- 
scribe as " Chief Senior of all Ireland in wisdom, in 
chastity, in the bestowal of jewels and food," and who 
died at Cong on May i6th A.D. 1150. Thus we 
learn the patrons of the work and its purpose. But 
prayers are also asked for Flannacan O'Duffy, Coarb 
of Com man and Ciaran (that is, for the abbot who 
ruled both at Roscommon in St. Comman's Abbey, 
and at Clonmacnoise in St. Ciaran's), under whose 
superintendence the shrine was made. Lastly, and this 
is the most interesting of all, we are bidden to "a 
prayer for Maelisu MacBraddan O'Echan, who made 
this shrine." And since this O'Hechan was coarb of 
St. Finnen at Cloncraff in county Roscommon, we 
know the place of making as well as the artist's 

What became of this priceless relic from the 
twelfth century onwards we have no means of 
knowing. Wilde can only tell us that when he was 
a boy it used to be kept " in a three-cornered 
cupboard in a little sitting-room " by the last Abbot 
of Cong ; for up till the year 1829, there survived the 
Reverend Patrick Prendergast, parish priest of Cong, 


and the last of the August! nian Canons Regular. The 
order, expelled from its precinct, had clung on, as 
the friars did so often in Ireland's history, hoping for 
restoration ; and according to my informant the last 
abbot might have named a successor, and was ready 
to do so. But his curate, to whom the offer was 
made, refused the honour ; then, having thought it 
over, returned to accept, but found a refusal in his 
turn. How the cross passed from the keeping of 
Abbot Prendergast into the Royal Irish Academy's 
Museum is not clearly stated by Wilde. In point of 
fact, I am told, it was sold by the curate, through 
Wilde's intermediacy, for a hundred pounds : and 
when the news leaked out there was red fury. On 
Christmas and Easter Day the cross used to be set on 
the altar ; and on that Christmas men talked fiercely 
of nailing up the door against the priest who had 
robbed the parish of its treasure. It must be said 
that the parish guarded it badly, for the central 
crystal containing the fragment of cross had been 
removed from the jewel, and, says Wilde, " was 
usually carried by a lady in her pocket." (It is now 
lost beyond hope of recovery.) However, the parish 
was none the less angry, and a lawsuit was threatened : 
but a priest who succeeded to the seller of the cross 
decided to take the law into his own hands. Dressed 
in a big overcoat, he visited the Museum where the 
cross was exposed, and stood lost in study before it. 
At last the policeman in charge heard a crash of 
glass ; the case was broken, and both cross and 


priest were gone. Rushing into the street, he 
followed and seized the raider ; whereupon a mob 
began to gather, and after some parley the priest was 
allowed to take the cross home to his lodging. Then 
followed anxious conferences : and at last the good 
father returned to Cong pacified by a promise of a 
minutely faithful picture of the precious relic, which 
he received and treasured till he died. 

No doubt the cross is safe now and conveniently 
accessible for all and sundry ; and perhaps better so 
than in the manse of a parish priest. But suppose 
things had gone otherwise. Suppose the Augustinians 
had never been expelled : suppose their centre of learn- 
ing and the arts had been allowed to glow and radiate 
continually : suppose Cong were still as fitting a 
home for such a treasure as it was in the twelfth 
century what a different Ireland we should have ! 
However, the monastery was swept away like the 
rest, reformed off the face of the earth ; and the task 
of introducing a higher civilisation proceeded. Go 
to Cong now and ask for the signs of it. You will 
see, certainly, Lord Ardilaun's great house and his 
famous woodcock covers. But what will be pointed 
out to you with special emphasis by your car-driver 
or boatman, is the scene of this or that bloody murder 
horrible incidents in the suppressed civil war which 
raged during the 'eighties. 

Still more significant in that neighbourhood is 
Lough Mask Castle, where history was made with a 
vengeance ; for here it was that the struggle with 


Captain Boycott added a sinister word to the language ; 
here it was that the weapon of the peasantry was 
forged and named. The struggle is mainly over 
now, and victory rests with the peasants with the 
race, long conquered but never submissive, that 
always held itself distinct from the new masters 
of the soil, and always cherished a memory of 
the rights that had been confiscated. They are 
fixed now on the soil as tenants, not to be dis- 
turbed at the will of any man ; and soon they will 
be the full owners. But who can count the ruin, 
moral and physical, that has resulted from this war ? 
Yet who is to blame the winners ? What Irish rule 
meant may be inferred from the Abbey and the 
Cross of Cong : what English rule has meant you 
may gather from the country as it is to-day, where 
among people naturally gentle, courteous, kindly 
and intelligent, ignorance and cruelty have gone hand 
in hand. For deeds like the killing of Lord Mount- 
morres and the Huddys, apart from their horror, 
throw back the cause of the Irish tenants and the 
Irish race past calculation. 

Yet, as it chances, in this very region can be seen 
the springing up of what may well come to be a centre 
of intellectual life and civilisation, rivalling the old 
glories of Cong though as yet, indeed, far enough 
from any splendours but those of enthusiasm. At 
Tourmaceady on the western shore of Lough Mask, 
under the Partry mountains, is the Connaught School 
of Irish study established by the Gaelic League where 


during the summer months students can come and, 
in a district where Irish is the common tongue, 
make part of a community hard at work, not so much 
learning Irish (for few come there without full 
knowledge of the language) as studying Irish litera- 
ture and learning how to teach Irish ; a community 
which is the germ indeed of a truly Irish university. 
That is a development later than the land war, and 
of far brighter augury. 

I would close my chapter here, yet there is in 
Lough Corrib one place of so surpassing interest and 
beauty that I cannot leave it unmentioned the lovely 
island of Inchagoill. 

Corrib is the longest lake in these islands twenty- 
eight miles straight from south to north, and then 
another twelve miles of narrow water shoots off west- 
ward at a right angle, piercing into the mountains of 
the Joyce country. This upper stretch should be the 
most picturesque of any, but I never explored it : 
and the first twenty miles of the journey from 
Galway are not particularly interesting, along a tract 
of water sometimes barely half a mile wide, filled 
with rocks, and reefs, and long spits of stones. To 
me Corrib means really the broad basin eight miles 
across, from Cong to Oughterard, in which islands big 
and little lift their tall groves of pine and larch. Incha- 
goill is one of the largest, and it lies midway in that 
beautiful expanse. I fished down to it in about two 
hours, but the little yacht which carried my picnick- 
ing friends made the run in less than half an hour, 


and a charming object her white sails were, flying 
now across a background of dark trees, now across an 
open gap of sky and sharply crested wavelets. We 
timed it neatly, and there was I landing a handsome 
two pound trout just as the yacht ran in to the little 
bay where she was to get her moorings. Skilful 
hands tacked her up a narrow channel with pine 
woods all about her ; and then we went off in a body 
to explore the graveyard and the two ruined churches. 
Of these one is absolutely primitive a matter of ten 
yards long, built of huge stones with the roughest 
masonry, and having a narrow square-headed door- 
way, whose jambs incline towards the top. The 
second church, very little larger, is of more recent 
date, for the masonry is in courses and the stones are 
cut and dressed ; still more significant, the doorway is 
a noble example of Irish decorated architecture, 
skilfully restored by setting back the tumbled stones. 
Its heavy semi-circular arches, each recessed within 
the other as in the great chancel arch at Tuam and 
wrought like that also in red sandstone have the 
general features of all the early Christian art which 
derives from the Roman or Byzantine types. The 
heads which crown the capitals, with their plaited 
beards wrought into the scroll work so characteristic 
of the Celt, are indeed truly Byzantine. 

Of the history of this church and its simpler pre- 
decessor we have no knowledge beyond what is given 
in the Irish name of the island Inis an Ghoill 
Craoibhtheach, the island of the devout foreigner 


and in the third and most remarkable monument of the 
place. This is a small pillar stone standing now as a 
headstone over a grave. But on the stone are carved 
in bold relief two crosses, and an inscription in a very 
ancient Irish character. Petrie, who read this in- 
scription of which all the letters are plain as print, 
practically unaffected by the weather gave it as 
follows : 


"The Stone of Lugnath, son of Limenueh." 
And 'since Limenueh, or Liemania, was said to be' the 
sister of St. Patrick, and Lugnath her son was 
Patrick's pilot or navigator, the tomb was, in Petrie's 
judgment, not only of Patrick's date, but erected over 
his near kinsman. This view has been disputed, but 
is supported by the authority of Dr. Joyce ; and there 
is little doubt from the character of the lettering 
that the inscription dates back to the fifth or sixth 

I was even more interested with a discovery or 
theory of my own. The name of the one house- 
holder who lives on the island is Kinneevy, that is 
Mac an Naoimh, or Saint's son. Whether he may 
claim descent from the Gall Craobhthach who gave 
the island his name, or whether it merely came to 
pass that every man inhabiting the island called 
himself " of the Saint's family," there is no doubt in 
my mind that the name has been there since sur- 
names came into use under Brian Boru, and that it 


keeps the memory of the " devout foreigner." I 
present to the world with confidence this result of 
meditations, arrived at while the kettle sang over a 
crackling wood fire, and we who watched basked on 
a little beach of silvery lake sand, grown over with 
golden John's wort, and backed by a brake of hazel 
among which late honeysuckle still blossomed, and 
early blackberries were ripe for the picking. 



HARDLY any town of importance in Ireland is so 
little visited as Armagh, for it lies on no main 
thoroughfare of railroad ; yet there is hardly any 
town or city, great or small, of equal interest to the 
historically minded. Its ecclesiastical primacy is 
continuous from the time when St. Patrick, after long 
wanderings, fixed there his own monastic settlement, 
fifteen hundred and sixty-four years ago. Yet 
through all that long tract of generations Armagh 
is never so salient in Ireland's history as it was in the 
day of its still earlier glory ; for the Height of 
Macha rivalled Tara's fame when Dublin was only 
the Hurdle Ford across the LifFey ; or rather, if the 
newest and most probable theory of Irish history be 
true, Tara itself was only the seat of a petty princi- 
pality when the heroes of the Red Branch mustered 
round Conchobar MacNessa. 1 All that is most 
glorious in Irish epic story springs from this root : 

1 This name is pronounced Conachar, or, still further shortened, 




and, legendary though the stories be, they have 
certainly a basis in fact. We can stand to-day 
in Conchobar's fortress where the sons of Usnach 
were foully done to death ; and we can fix, by a 
tradition which has in it nothing improbable, the 
period of Cuchulain's feats. 

Emain Macha, 1 the great rath with double en- 

View from Emain, with the two Cathedrals. 

closure of bank and mound, which lies rather more 
than a mile to the westward of Armagh, was none of 
Conchobar's building. According to the tradition 

1 Now called "the Navan Fort." Navan here is An Embain, 
the medial consonant having been softened Navan in Meath is 
An Uaimh. 

H 2 


which dates its foundation about 330 years before 
Christ, Macha was daughter of the High King, Aedh 
Ruad, who left his life and his name in the dangerous 
ford of Erne at Assaroe, Eas Aedh Ruaidh, Red 
Hugh's Waterfall. After Aedh's drowning, Macha, 
like the Amazon that she was, claimed his throne, 
but found her succession disputed. One of the rival 
claimants, Cimbaeth, she wedded, and, as for the 
other princes, single-handed she captured them (by 
a stratagem which, says Archbishop Healy, did 
more credit to her cunning and valour than to 
her modesty) ; and she set the captives digging 
earthworks on a line, which she traced out with 
eb muin, the broochpin of her neck ; unde, Emain 

But another legend, with less appearance certainly 
of historic fact, is so woven into the Ultonian tra- 
dition that it cannot be set aside. There was a certain 
widower, Crundchu, who lived lonely with a heavy 
charge of children, till one day a young and comely 
woman silently entered his house, silently went about 
the duties of a housewife, and silently took her place 
by his side. All prospered with Crundchu till an 
unlucky day, when the Ultonians were holding festi- 
val and he made ready to go. His wife counselled 
him against going, but bid him at least to speak no 
word of her in the assembly. There was horse- 
racing, and the King's horses carried all before them. 
" Nothing lives that could pass them," said the people. 
"My wife runs quicker," said Crundchu. They 


haled him to the King ; and messengers were sent for 
the woman. 

" My husband has spoken unwisely," said she. 
" As for me, I am about to be delivered of a 

" Alas ! for that," said the messengers, " for your 
husband will be put to death if you do not come." 

" Then I must go," she said. 

She was brought to the assembly, and folk crowded 
round her. 

" I am not fit for men's eyes," she said. " Why 
am I brought here ? " 

" To run against the King's two horses ! " they 

Then she asked for mercy. " Help me," she 
said, " for a mother bore each of you." But there 
was no respite given. She ran, and she outran the 
horses ; but at the goal her pains came on her, and she 
bore twins, and so the place is called Emain Macha, 
Macha's Twins, for " Macha," she said, " is my 
name." And she cried out in her pain, and at the 
sound of that cry all hearers were seized with weak- 
ness. " The weakness shall be upon you in the time 
of your need," she said, " the weakness of a woman 
in childbirth, for five days and four nights ; and so 
it shall be till the ninth generation." 

This story accounts for more than the name 
Emania. The sickness of the men of Ulster is an 
integral part of the greatest saga of the Red Branch 
cycle the Tain Bo Cuai/gne, or Cattlelifting of 


Cooley. Some account has to be given of the 
personages in this famous tale. 

Conchobar MacNessa took his name from his 
mother, for by her sovereignty came to him. Her 
first husband died, leaving her with this son, for whom 
greatness had been foretold. Christian tellers of the 
story say it was no wonder, for he had the same birth 
hour as Christ. Nessa, being still beautiful, was 
sought in marriage by Fergus MacRoy, King of 
Ulster ; but she made a subtle pact with him that 
he should for one year resign the sovereign power to 
her son, " in order that his posterity might be called 
the descendants of a king." Fergus agreed ; but, 
when the year was out, Conchobar had so wrought 
among the Ultonians that they would have no other 
to rule over them. Fergus, in red anger, withdrew 
into Connaught, where the fierce queen Maeve ruled 
at Cruachan along with her husband Ailill. (Let it 
be noted in passing that the rival seat of power to 
Emain Macha is Cruachan ; Tara is not heard of ; 
and the southern half of Ireland does not come into 
the story at all. ) 

Maeve, as I have said, was a fierce woman, and not 
willing to be surpassed in anything, and jealous even 
of her own husband's possessions. And so when she 
learnt that in all her herds there was no match for his 
Find-bennach, the White Bull of Connaught, she sent 
out messengers through Ireland who reported that in 
Cuailgne (the Omeath peninsula, which encloses Car- 
lingford bay on the south) was a brown bull whose 


like was not in Ireland. She tried to buy the bull, 
and when that failed, raised a hosting to invade 
Ulster watching the time when the periodic sickness 
would be on Conchobar's warriors. 

The great foray set out from Cruachan (now Rath 
Croghan in Roscommon), crossing the Shannon above 
Lough Ree ; thence, traversing the plains of Longford 
and Westmeath into Meath itself, they reached Kells 
in the valley of the Blackwater. All this country 
was afterwards the kingdom of Brefny, which 
stretched as far as Kells ; and it seems that then 
Kells was also on the frontier of Ulster, from which 
the kingdom of Oriel had not yet been cut off. At 
all events, as the host marched by SJane and over 
the country to the north of Knowth (not far from 
where Mellifont and Monasterboice stand), they met 
with their first sign of opposition. Near a place 
called Athgabhla (the Ford of the Forks), they 
met the chariots of two scouts returning " and their 
cushions very red on them." In the ford itself was 
the fork of a tree, severed from the trunk with one 
blow, and planted upright in the ford by a cast 
from a chariot ; and on the four arms of the fork 
were the heads of the two scouts and of their chario- 
teers. When the host of Connaught asked who had 
done this, Fergus MacRoy answered that it was surely 
Cuchulain, the young hero of the Ultonians. 

Cuchulain l had got his name, the Hound of 
Cullen, by a boyish feat ; for, coming alone to the 
1 Pronounce, Coo hullen. 


smith Cullen's house, he was attacked by a monstrous 
dog, and, having killed the creature, volunteered to 
watch Cullen's house for a year till the whelp which 
he gave as an eric should be grown to its strength. 
His own dun was at Muirthemne, just by Dundalk, 
and Cuailgne was therefore under his special guard. 
But now it was his duty to defend the whole border 
line of Ulster, because he alone was exempt from the 
debility of Macha's curse, for his true father was a 
man of the Tuatha de Danann. 

From the frontier by the Boyne, northwards all 
through the plain leading to the Mourne mountains, 
Cuchulain and his charioteer Laeg made war on the 
host of Ireland ; first harrying them with sling-stones 
from a distance, then limiting their march daily (by a 
compact with Maeve) to such time as it should take 
him to slay the chosen warrior whom they sent out 
to meet him. It was then that he met and slew his 
brother-in-arms, Ferdia, at the ford of Ardee. And 
during that fight Maeve's host must have made good 
progress, for it lasted four full days. 

During the whole of his war Cuchulain had never 
rested, " except when he slept a little while against 
his spear after midday, with his head on his clenched 
fist, and his clenched fist on his spear, and his spear 
on his knee." But his father, Lugh of the Long 
Hand, took pity on the champion and came to stand 
in the gap. When Lugh came across the host of 
Ireland, shining in jewels and armour and doing 
warrior feats with his weapons, yet unseen and 


unattacked by any, Cuchulain knew him for "one of his 
friends from the sidh ; " and at this friend's bidding 
he slept, a slumber to match his weariness, for three 
nights and days. 

In that swoon happened another incident of the 
Tain which relates back to the old story of Macha's 
twins. The curse was not on children, and the 
boy troop of Emain Macha Conchobar's school of 
young warriors thought it a pity for Cuchulain to 
be so long without support, and they set out to the 
fight with their playing clubs. " And they gave 
battle, thrice to the hosts so that three times their own 
number fell." But in the end all the boys fell except 
the King's own son, Folloman MacConchobair, who, 
not content with his escape, swore that he would 
never go back to Emain till he had the head of 
Ailill, Maeve's King, with the golden crown on it. 
But Ailill's two foster brothers came on him and 
wounded him to death ; so that Cuchulain, awaking 
from his long slumber, heard of the total slaying of 
the boy troop ; and it was then indeed that the 
battle fury overtook and transfigured him. 

I shall quote a few lines from the strange descrip- 
tion of this paroxysm, the symptom of Cuchulain's 
berserker rage, which gave him his name of Riastarta, 
the Distorted One. 

" All over him from his crown to the ground, his flesh and every 
limb and joint and point and articulation of him quivered as does a 
tree, yea, a bulrush in mid-current. Within in his skin he put forth 
an unnatural effort of his body ; his feet, his shins, and his knees, 


shifted themselves and were behind him ; his heels and calves and 
hams were displaced to the front of his leg bones in condition such 
that their knotted muscles stood up in lumps as large as the clenched 
fist of a fighting man." 

That is only the opening of a long passage 
(translated by Mr. S. H. O'Grady) which gradu- 
ally rises out of any touch with physical reality 
at all. 

" Taller, thicker, more rigid, longer than masts of a great ship was 
the perpendicular jet of dusky blood which out of his scalp's very 
central point shot upwards, and then was scattered to the four 
cardinal points ; whereby was formed a magic mist of gloom 
resembling the smoky pall that drapes a regal dwelling, what time a 
king at nightfall of a winter's day draws near to it." 

That is pure grotesque, from the ordinary Euro- 
pean standpoint. But it is worth while to point 
out that the Japanese are neither bad artists nor bad 
fighters, and they have always chosen to represent 
their heroes, pictorially at all events, in much the 
same spirit of violent contortion. I am sure that 
the touch would commend itself to them, which tells 
how Cuchulain's hair bristled in his rage so that if 
an apple tree were shaken over it every apple would 
be impaled. In judging these passages, we are 
judging an alien art, and it becomes us to try 
and shift the standpoint so as to see what was 

Here and there even in the high wrought passages 
a phrase will occur which strikes home at once. 
" Fedelm the orophetess, how seest thou our host ? " 


cries Maeve, asking for an augury. " I see very 
red, I see red," answers Fedelm. 

I see a fair man who will make play 
With a number of heads on his girdle, 
A herd' 's flame over his head, 
His forehead the meeting place of victory. 

Yet it is not in the phrasing or the ornament that 
we look for the true distinction of these legends : it 
is in the heroic cast of men's minds, the courtesy and 
the chivalry of their actions. I shall quote a single 
instance from the famous episode which tells of the 
fight with Ferdia, whom Maeve induced by cun- 
ning bribes to face his brother-in-arms at the ford. 
Three days the fight lasted without an issue : and at 
the close of the first day : 

" Let us now desist for the present, O Cuchullin," said Ferdia. 
" Let us indeed desist if the time be come," said Cuchullin. 
They ceased. They threw away their weapons from them into 
the hands of their charioteers. Each of them forthwith approached 
the other, and each put his arms round the other's neck and gave 
him three kisses. Their horses were in the same paddock that 
night, and their charioteers were at the same fire ; and for the 
champions their charioteers spread beds of green rushes with 
wounded men's pillows. ... Of every herb and healing plant 
that was applied to the stabs and cuts and gashes, and to all the 
wounds of Cuchullin, he would send an equal portion westward 
over the ford to Ferdia, so that the men of Erin might not be able 
to say, should Ferdia fall by him, that it was by better means of 
cure he had gotten the victory over him. And of each kind of 
food and of pleasant drink that was sent by the men of Erin to 
Ferdia, he would send a fair moiety over the ford northwards to 
Cuchullin ; because the purveyors of Ferdia were more numerous 
than those of Cuchullin. 


On the second night the same courtesies were 
interchanged. But on the third morning Cuchulain 
knew a cloud on the face of Ferdia, and that night 
their separation was " mournful, sorrowful, dis- 
heartened " ; their horses were not in the same 
enclosure that night, nor did their charioteers sit at 
the same fire. On the fourth day was the final 
conflict, and in it Cuchulain after a fight, more furious 
than ever, had recourse to his enchanted spear, 
the gae bulga, made out of dragon's bones ; and 
with it he pierced through armour and through flesh 
so that Ferdia was filled with its barbs. 

" The end is come now indeed," said Ferdia. " I 
fall by that." 

And for a last courtesy of all Cuchulain caught 
the swooning warrior, and bore him across the ford 
to his own side " so that the slain man might be 
on the north of the ford," and not left on the 
hither side of the crossing he had struggled for. 
It was then that Cuchulain spoke the beautiful lay, 
which remembers the days of comradeship, and 
laments over the triumph that has been won. 

I shall not attempt to give the whole story of the 
Tain, which closes with the rally of the Ultonians 
from their swoon, the defeat and dispersal of Maeve's 
army, and the dramatic death of the two famous bulls. 
The epic or saga, with its collateral sagas, comes 
down to us in the form of prose freely interspersed 
with poetry ; for the Irish was the first among primi- 
tive literatures to adopt prose, not verse, as its medium 


for narrative. We have the epic in the form of 
various transcripts, made in the twelfth century and 
later, but doubtless all copied or modified from 
previously existing versions. Translations of these 
are accessible in Miss Hull's Cuchulin Saga, Miss 
Faraday's Cattle Raid of Cuailgm, and Mr. Leahy's 
Heroic Romances of Ireland ; and much critical 
information is given in the introductions to these 
works. But for those who simply wish to read in 
the most attractive literary form what is told of 
Cuchulain and his compeers, by far the best book is 
Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne, where the 
whole cycle is rendered as a harmonious whole, 
through the medium of an easy musical English, 
with a hint running through it of Irish idiom, as it 
is heard in the speech of those parts where men have 
thought habitually in Irish. 

In it may be found a beautiful description of the 
palace at Emain Macha " a fine palace it was, having 
three houses in it, the Royal House and the Speckled 
House, and the House of the Red Branch." In the 
Royal House " the walls were made of red yew with 
copper rivets," but in Conchobar's own room the 
walls were faced with bronze wrought with silver on 
it, and gold birds with jewelled eyes. All this may 
prove only the standard of decorative ideas which 
prevailed in the twelfth century, but it indicates the 
type of a civilisation which was indigenous. Arch- 
bishop Healy (in his Life of St. Patrick) expresses a 
view that the Royal House stood away from Emain 


Macha, near the present town, and that the college of 
the Druids was close by it. Emain itself he con- 
siders to have been a sort of glorified barrack, with 
its House of the Red Branch where Conchobar's 
fighting men assembled. Each of these had his 
appointed place at table under his own device, and all 
sat with backs to the wall so that no man could be 
taken unawares. But as a further precaution, all 
weapons were stored in the Speckled House, which 
was so called by reason of the flecked brightness 
of the weapons shining in it. 

In the famous story of Deirdre and the sons of 
Usnach, it is told how when Naisi and his brothers 
came to Emain against all Deirdre's warnings, and 
struck with a knocker on the door of the enclosure, 
Deirdre warned them for a last time how they should 
know if treachery was intended. If they were 
admitted to the house where Conchobar and his nobles 
were feasting, all would be well ; but if they were 
lodged in the House of the Red Branch, fate im- 
pended. And it was into the House of the Red 
Branch that they were conducted. 

Deirdre's story is the one which clings for ever 
about Emain. At Emain Macha, indeed, Cuchulain 
performed his boy-feats, and he is the true centre of 
the Red Branch cycle ; yet it is rather over the level 
plain of Muirthemne, about Dundalk, and over the 
Ford of Ferdia at Ardee, that his memory hovers. 
The ghosts that haunt the old rath should be those 
of Naisi, Ainli, and Ardan, and of the men they slew 


before they themselves fell, whether under enchant- 
ment, or (as the oldest account tells) by mere 
sudden treachery ; and of the too beautiful woman, 
the bane and ruin of Ulster, for whom Conchobar 
forswore plighted honour and brought schism into 
the Red Branch. 

Yet, though Conchobar is the villain of that 
famous story, Christian legend dealt kindly with him. 
He had one birth-hour with Christ ; and it is said 
also that his death fell along with the Crucifixion. 
When a Druid revealed to him what was being done 
in the Eastern world, he ran out in fury, and fell to 
hewing at trees, as if they were Christ's tormentors, 
till with rage an old wound in his skull burst open, 
and he fell dead. In this way he is recorded as the 
first in Ireland who believed ; but many other shap- 
ings have been given to this story. One, which I 
heard in Donegal from Seumas MacManus, seemed 
to me of extraordinary beauty. 

In this version Conall Cearnach, next hero after 
Cuchulain and Fergus, after wandering the world for 
adventure had come home, and was telling in the 
House of the Red Branch of all he had seen. And 
he told them how the strangest of all that ever hap- 
pened to him was beside a city of the Eastern world, 
where, as he approached, a multitude was assembling 
on a hill ; and it was three malefactors they were 
punishing. They were raising them on beams of 
wood, and as Conall looked, it seemed to him that the 
face of one man of them could not be justly punished ; 


and rage burst out in his heart at thought of the in- 
justice that was being done. He drove his way 
through to the foot of the cross, ready to draw his 
sword, to sweep the rabble before him and rescue the 
wrongfully condemned. But as he stood in act to 
draw it, a drop of blood from the crucified fell on his 
breast. And then, said Conall, I know not why, all 
rage departed from me. 

However, that is later embroidery on the old 
legends. Yet those who collect Irish lore are glad 
to-day to find any trace of the Red Branch cycle 
in men's minds. The later Fenian stories have taken 
hold of the popular imagination, obscuring the earlier 
group. An instance came across me the other day. 
Loop Head, in Clare, is prope-rly Leap Head ; and the 
Irish is Leim Cuchulain (Cuchulain's Leap) because a 
story tells how Cuchulain, seeking to escape from 
a mistress who wearied him, ran to the promontory 
and leapt out across the broad chasm on to a pre- 
cipitous island of rock which was just off the land. 
The woman followed, but he leapt back, and she, 
trying again to follow, got her death. I asked an 
old countryman near Kilkee the Irish of Loop Head. 
" Ceann L'eime" he said. " Whose Leim ? " I asked. 
" The leap of Diarmuid and Grainne," he answered. 
And he went on to tell me the story with persons 
changed, though, as every Irish speaker should know, 
Grainne outlived Diarmuid not to her credit. 

Yet if Mr. MacNeill's theory be right, this 
confusion of Red Branch story with the Fenian sagas 


is only the repetition of an old injustice. Conchobar 
MacNessa and the rest are all represented as Milesian 
heroes, whereas in truth they belonged to a wholly 
different race. Let us consider the facts as he states 
them. The Milesians, he holds, settled in the Boyne 
valley about the end of the first century and gradually 
extended their conquests over the central plain. In 
the fourth century they must have been pushing 
further afield ; for we read that in A.D. 321 the three 
Collas, kinsmen of Muiredach, ruler of Tara, invaded 
Ulster, drove the Ultonians out of the country about 
Lough Neagh into the north-eastern corner of 
Ireland, and utterly destroyed the buildings of Emain, 
so that after that day no king of Ireland lived there. 
Thus, according to tradition, was fulfilled the curse 
laid upon Conchobar MacNessa for his treachery to 
the sons of Usnach ; but it took three centuries to 
fulfil itself. 

Historically, there appears to be no doubt of this 
conquest : and historically also it is known that 
Dalriada and Dalaradia, the two divisions of Antrim, 
were inhabited by people differing in race from the 
Milesian stock. These people were Picts, and 
presumably Cuchulain and the rest were Picts also. 
All their legends describe them as chariot-fighters 
like those whom Caesar met when he landed in 
Britain ; whereas the Milesians (adopting Roman 
tactics, Mr. MacNeill thinks) fought on foot, and 
perhaps owed their success to this less showy but 
more effective manner of war. 



At all events, when St. Patrick came to Ireland in 
432, the palace of Conchobar was laid waste, and 
had been deserted for more than a hundred years. 
The Hymn of Fiacc written in Patrick's honour 
makes a point of this when it says 

" The Sovereignty is in Ardmacha, 
Long ago it departed from Emain." 

Already in St. Patrick's day the contrast was 
present to the mind which to-day forces itself upon 
the eye ; for if you go to Emain Macha, and stand 
on top of the old fortress, encircled by the great 
rings of earthworks which still remain, what will 
impress you most is that view which Mr. Thomson 
has Jrawn of the two cathedrals crowning opposite 

But the Milesians were not content with taking 
the sovereignty from Emain ; they must needs make 
legends linking up the Red Branch story with Tara, 
and invent Milesian affinities with the Pictish heroes 
of Emain. One story told how Cuchulain's head and 
his shield were buried there, and the sepulchres were 
shown among Tara's wonders. Another legend of 
Christian origin tells how Patrick, in reply to 
Laoghaire's demand for a proof of miraculous power, 
conjured up for the king a vision of Cuchulain in his 
chariot, doing marvellous feats of skill with weapons. 
And Patrick, too, is represented as having a tenderness 
for the Red Branch : a verse which the Tripartite 

iv ARMAGH 115 

Life assigns to the apostle himself makes this notable 
lament : 

" It is Armagh that I love, 
My dear thorpe, my dear hill, 
A dun which my soul haunteth : 
Emania of the heroes shall be waste." 

His angel, we are told, consoled the saint by saying 
that Armagh should never be a desert, that his 
crozier should be there for all time. And both saint 
and angel willingly identify the Christian city with 
the old pagan fortress and palace. 

Before I leave the story of Emain as distinct from 
that of Armagh, one very curious incident has to be 
recorded. In 1387 Niall O'Neill, King of Ulster, 
erected a building there to comply with the wishes of 
the literary men of Ireland that he should re-edify 
Emania. That, if one comes to think, is no bad 
indication of the state of culture which existed here 
in the north of Ireland about the time when Chaucer 
was writing his Canterbury Tales. Si parva licet 
componere magnis, it recalls the proposal made in the 
days of Augustus to rebuild Troy, for sentimental 
and literary reasons. 

When Patrick reached Armagh a king still 
reigned there, though in far lesser glory. The 
kingdom of OirghialJa, or Oriel, had been shorn out 
from Ulster by the Collas, and their successor was 
Daire. From him Patrick asked the site for a 

i 2 


church and a monastery where he himself might 
gather a religious community about him. Historians 
disagree as to dates, but agree that this happened 
after Patrick, considering his missionary labours 
accomplished, had gone to Rome and returned rich 
in relics and authority. His first request of Daire 
was for the high ground called Druim Sailech, the 
Ridge of the Willows. But Daire refused seeing 
that this site, on which the old cathedral stands 
to-day, was higher than that of his own dun. But 
he granted a site on the lower ground, and there a 
church was built called Fertas Martyrum the Grave 
of the Martyrs : in which probably the relics were 

I need not tell the whole story of Daire's gradual 
change of mind and repentance for his first refusal. 
But one part is too good to be omitted. Daire sent 
to Patrick a present of a great brazen cauldron 
" brought from the sea." " Gratzacham" said Patrick 
(that is, Gratias agam, let me thank you written as 
the words sounded to Irish ears). But Daire knew 
no Latin, and pondering over the matter, thought he 
had been slighted. 

" ' Go,' he said to his servants, 'and bring it back to me again.' 
They went and told Patrick they were ordered to take home the 
pot. ' Gratzackam, said Patrick, 'take it with you.' 'What 
did the Christian say to you when you asked for the pot ? ' said 
Daire. ' He only said gratzachamj they replied. ' Gratzacham 
when it is given,' said Daire, 'and gratzacham when it is taken 
away. The word must be good, bring it back to him again.' 
And Daire himself went with the messengers, and praised Patrick's 


constancy, and said, * I will give you now that plot, on the Hill of 
the Willows, which you asked for before, It is yours. Go and 
dwell there. 1 " 

But Archbishop Healy, from whose translation of 
the Tripartite Life I have been quoting, thinks 
another story much more wonderful and interesting. 
For Patrick and Daire went together to Druim Sailech, 
and there they found a doe with her fawn lying on 
the spot where the Protestant cathedral now stands, 
and where Patrick built his church. Those with 
Patrick wished to kill the beasts, but the saint for- 
bade ; and he himself took the fawn on his shoulders 
and carried it the doe following quite tamely and 
confidently until he let the fawn loose in a brake 
situated to the north of Ard Macha, " where even 
up to our own time," says the writer in the old 
Tripartite Life, " there are not wanting marvellous 
signs, as the learned say." " But the greatest sign 
of all has happened in our own time," says Arch- 
bishop Healy. " For this northern hill which in 
the time of St. Patrick was a wooded brake is now 
the site of the largest and the most commanding 
church in Ireland." 

It is a sign indeed, and worthy of the closest 
attention. One hundred and fifty years ago 
Catholics in Ireland were saying mass on the 
hillsides ; the mass house was absolutely prohibited, 
and though the law might wink, and did wink, 
at the performance of Catholic rites, yet it could 
always be roused into activity. I have told in my 


last chapter how in 1737 the Franciscans were ex- 
pelled from their shelter at Ross Errilly in the 
remote wilds of Connaught, when individual malice 
forced the law to take cognisance of their existence. 
To-day Ireland is full of churches, all of them built 
within a hundred years and almost every church, let 
it be clearly understood, is crowded to the limit of its 
capacity with worshippers. But here at Armagh is 
the greatest monument of all planted as if in 
defiance so as to dominate the country round and 
outface that older building on the lesser summit : 
the costliest church that has been erected within 
living memory in Ireland ; and not that only. It is 
in good truth a monument not of generous wealth 
(like the two great cathedrals of Christ Church and 
St. Patrick's in Dublin) but of devoted poverty : 
the gift not of an individual but of a race, out of 
money won laboriously by the Catholic Irish at home 
and in the far ends of the world. I wonder how 
many hundred thousands of day labourers gave their 
mite to its building in the thirty years since the 
work began. 

So viewed, I question whether modern Christianity 
can show anything more glorious : yet in other 
aspects the new St. Patrick's Cathedral must sadden 
the beholder. The stone of which it is hewn, as the 
money that paid for the hewing, is Irish : but the 
ideas which shaped the fabric are pure Italian. At 
Cashel, Cormac's chapel the one ancient edifice 
which comes to us intact springs from the soil of 


Ireland like an apple-tree in blossom : this building 
at Armagh is exotic as a palm. In the great church 
itself this air of the foreigner is not so striking : but 
the Archbishop's stately palace is copied straight from 
a Roman model. What relation has it to the plain 
manse of the Irish parish priest ? It belongs wholly 
to another order of ideas. 

I write this in no spirit of reproach but of historical 
comment ; it is what every educated man will feel 
who comes up the great flight of steps from the modest 
slated town, fully typical of Ireland, and gazes at the 
high reared front with its two towers ; it is what will 
be pressed in on his consciousness when he enters and 
sees all about him the handiwork and the taste of the 
modern Italian artificer. Then, if he be wise, instead 
of turning away in haste from what offends as un- 
native, not fitting, not natural, he will ask a ques- 
tion, Why ? And history gives full answer. 

The dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 meant 
the breaking up of all ancient seats of art and learn- 
ing that still existed in Ireland. For a hundred and 
fifty years after that Irish Catholics were fighting 
almost continuously for the bare right to live and 
practise their religion. The armed struggle was 
ended by the Treaty of Limerick, and then followed 
a century of the penal laws. When the era of ex- 
plicit toleration began, seven generations had elapsed 
since a mason was legally permitted to lay one stone 
of a Catholic building on another. Worse than that, 
for a century education had be^n denied the Catholics. 


It was given contraband by the hedge schoolmasters, 
and by the ecclesiastics who went abroad to study and 
returned to exercise their vocation in defiance of the 
law. Literature lived on, even through these con- 
ditions, for the brain of man is a safe hiding-place of 
treasure ; but the art of the ancient builders died from 
disusage, and when leave was given to build, the first 
thought was for bare necessaries. As occasion grew, 
and means, to lavish upon religious buildings some- 
thing of splendour, where were Irish Catholics to look 
for models ? About them ? Protestants, save in the 
few cases where they utilised some of the old fabrics, 
the work of less thrifty builders, had made frugal pro- 
vision for their own worship. From the whole comity 
of European Catholic art, Irish Catholics had been cut 
off. Who can wonder if to-day their outlay shows 
profusion rather than taste what they can buy, not 
what they can create, for the glory of their religion. 
Consider the matter in a more personal aspect. 
Outside the western doorway stand two statues, and 
one of these is the late Archbishop McGettigan, whose 
beautiful profile, as I saw it outlined against an even- 
ing sky, redeemed the meanness of the sculpture. I 
remember a near kinswoman of his, born on the 
same mountain-side above a wild lake in Donegal, who 
held her head high by reason of her kinship with the 
prelate, though she was a servant in my father's 
house. The present heir of St. Patrick (in the 
Catholic succession) comes from the same county, 
from the same Irish-speaking moorland fringe ; and 


his cousins and nephews to-day are strong and lucky 
herring-fishers. From such beginnings Archbishop 
McGettigan and Cardinal Logue climbed the freest 
of all ladders to that great episcopal throne ; and 
from a cleaner, stronger, more honourable stock I 
think no blood could be derived. But what chance 
had these men of general culture ? There was no 
university where education could be accepted, at least 
by any Catholic designed for the priesthood ; but the 
State, so rigorous in this refusal, thoughtfully pro- 
vided a theological seminary where they would be 
drilled and disciplined in the learning of a Roman 
priest. Everything was done that could be done to 
make a Roman ecclesiastic ; how little care was 
taken to make a cultivated Irishman ! As for the 
rest of Catholic Ireland, it either did without general 
education altogether, and minded its commerce, and 
its law, or its medicine continuously apprenticed 
from the day it left school or else it went, when 
its conscience permitted, to Trinity College and re- 
ceived the culture which is admirably typified by 
Protestant Armagh. 

For although, as a fierce old Catholic told me 
gleefully out in the fields by the Yellow Ford, 
Catholics have now the power in Armagh, and no 
Orange cock crows on the Corporation and County 
Council, yet Armagh is moulded into the very image 
of Irish Episcopalian Protestantism. 

Its decent prosperous streets have somehow a 
different air from those of Catholic Kilkenny the 


only town which can reasonably compare with it, 
since both are paved with marble. The hotel where 
I stayed, keeping the memory of two primates in its 
designation, had something episcopal, handsome and 
suitable in its outfit. There was a modest entrance, 
an old hall, antique furniture, and, I was told, old 
plate, reminiscent of days when the Protestant squire- 
archy of Ireland would be numerous about the palace. 
But above all I found the very quintessence of Pro- 
testant atmosphere in the decent gentility of the 
Mall, on whose level expanse, so like a cathedral close, 
it seemed to me that the cathedral could more 
suitably be placed. These houses had the very air 
for an Irish Protestant precinct solid, square, well- 
proportioned, discreet work of the eighteenth century, 
rather chilly in colour, yet suggesting comfort inside. 
One building was a well-furnished library, where 
(having mislaid my own copy) I sought for John 
Mitchell's Life of Hugh O'Neill and did not find it. 
Mitchell is probably the most remarkable English 
writer that the north of Ireland ever produced : 
Hugh O'Neill is certainly a figure not negligible 
anywhere, and least of all at Armagh ; but still, 
library and librarian knew nothing of the book. That 
is typical. 

Climb the hill to the cathedral, which looms up 
square and solid over you as you pace the Mall between 
ranged and respectable elm trees. The cathedral is 
a little respectable too, and a little squat ; but for all 
that, massive and dignified. The interior is, to my 


mind, exactly what a cathedral of the Irish Protestant 
church should be. Nothing is older than the Boyne; 
all severe, clear, cold, frugal almost to the point of 
stinginess in ornament, yet with a creditable attempt 
here and there in details to keep up the tradition of 
Irish art. Other Irish tradition, cherished by the 
body of the modern Irish nation, finds itself repre- 
sented ; here is Molyneux (very cleverly sculptured 
by Roubiliac), who ranks after Swift in the roll of 
those early publicists, who championed the cause of 
decent government for Ireland, and whose books 
were duly burnt by the hangman. Volunteer flags 
of the Killymoon battalion recall a moment in Irish 
history which crowned (for a moment) the ideals of 
men like Molyneux. And on a brass tablet is 
engraved the noble scholarly head of the late Dean 
Reeves reminding the world of the services which 
Irish Protestant churchmen have rendered to purely 
Irish scholarship. 

But how characteristic of the old Established 
Church are the bishops here sculptured, and how un- 
like the Cardinal and his predecessor ! The two 
Beresfords lie at full length (facing west, as is right), 
stately, pompous, indistinguishable in their severe 
haughty profiles aristocrats who perhaps did more 
than any two other men to justify the order under 
which they lived, the order which arranged that a 
Beresford should always be a bishop if he wanted to 
be. Something has passed away with those old 
nobles which, perhaps, is not to be regretted, yet 


which had a real nobility. On the north wall, 
Stuart prays, in Chantrey's very beautiful sculpture 
an archbishop of whom no one knew anything, till the 
other day when the publication of old State papers 
showed him protesting with passion against one of 
the most scandalous Union appointments to the bench 
of bishops a Beresford's, by the way ! His protest 
was earnest but ineffectual the protest of a good 
but not powerful man : leave him there praying. 

As for the community over whom these men were 
bishops the Protestant gentry of Ulster their 
record is legible on these walls. There is a memorial 
to three Kellys, men of Wellington's day, who 
fell, one in the West Indies, one in the East Indies, 
and a third in the Peninsula : a memorial to a young 
lieutenant Kidd, gloriously slain in the Crimea while 
trying to drag wounded men into safety. How 
many of the same breed have died in the same 
way for England ? Flags which they carried, and 
flags which they captured, decorate the grey aisles. 

Again, as before, let us look at persons no less than 
at places and things. Over to the north, on the 
Janiculum of this city of the seven hills, stands the 
great palace also absolutely typical, not of the 
democratic Church of Ireland that lives so vigorously 
to-day, but of the old aristocratic church, whose bishops 
were chosen expressly from the bene nati : a house 
large, spacious, well-proportioned, speaking of an 
opulent family life the fit mansion for one of those 
lords spiritual who were also well-endowed with all 


the temporalities of a rich episcopate. Everything 
in the great house speaks of a full transmitted culture 
not least, the group of portraits with a noble 
Reynolds among them : and there, appropriate in his 
great station, sits to-day the last link with the old 
order, last survivor of the Crown-appointed bishops 
than whom Patrick has scarcely had a more 
eloquent successor. 

I write the more boldly of this home of one who 
has been a kind and honoured friend to me and mine 
since I can remember anything, because some glimpse 
of that home and its picturesque old-world surround- 
ings has been afforded to the world in a book full 
of charm. And not the least pleasant thing in 
Lady Anne s Walk is a passage which gives some 
hint of the friendly feeling between the rival thrones 
of Armagh. Miss Alexander has been weaving, after 
her fashion, out of the city's storied past, some 
legend to account for a lack of singing birds in Lady 
Anne's old garden, when, with a gracious turn of her 
pen, she descends delightfully into an idyll of fact 
in search for a simpler reason. 

" They may be tempted away by a kind old Cardinal who, in 
black soutane piped with red, and scarlet biretta, can be seen any 
afternoon spreading breadcrumbs for his feathered neighbours at the 
top of a fine flight of steps that leads to his fine new Cathedral." 

Well there they are, the two old men ; one of them 
looking back to a Donegal fishing village and then 
Maynooth, the other to a north -of Ireland rectory, 
and then the Oxford of Newman's day. What they 


have seen ! and I wonder what they think of it all. But 
it is fair to guess that the Primate dwells most 
willingly in fancy on the dreams and deeds of men in 
outlying corners of the British Empire who aim at 
making something new into a part of England ; and 
that Cardinal Logue is constantly cheered by his 
sympathetic touch with the young force of the 
Gaelic League, which aims at bringing again into a 
new flowering that genius of Ireland whose natural 
growth has been for centuries so stunted and starved 
and dwindled. 

What it was in the days of its first great flowering 
Armagh should know. " The Irish Church was " 
(I quote Zimmer) " from the sixth to the ninth 
century foremost in Western Christendom." Here 
at Armagh there are still marks of a racial division ; 
but " English Street " and " Scotch Street " mark 
only the groupings of separate colonists. In the 
great days when Armagh was a university for 
Western Europe, 

"So great" (says Archbishop Healy) "was the number of 
students flocking to Armagh in the sixth and seventh centuries that 
the city came to be divided, for peace sake we presume, into three 
wards or thirds, named respectively the Trian Mbr, the Trian 
Masaln, and the Trian Saxon, the last taking its name from the 
crowd of students from Saxon-land who took up their abode 
therein, where, according to the testimony of the Venerable Bede, 
they were all supplied gratuitously with books, education, and 

For an extant monument of that time there can be 
no doubt where to look. There comes to us, from 


the school which Patrick established, a manuscript 
containing the earliest written memoirs of the saint 
and Patrick's Confession transcribed from Patrick's 
own writing. I shall tell at some length the story 
of the Book of Armagh, for it illustrates the history 
of Ireland from Patrick's day down to our own. 
Glory and disgrace, treachery and martyrdom, 
defeat and victory all these memories cluster about 
this volume in which so much is eloquent that is not 
even written. 

What, then, is the Book of Armagh ? It is first of 
all a copy of the New Testament in Latin, bound 
up along with certain Lives, Concordances and 
Tables all transcribed in a marvellous penmanship. 
Yet of more interest to me than the work of the 
scribe is the rude trace of readers ; for the copy is 
not a whole, completed at one time, but is really a 
number of volumes ; and each group of parchments 
shows by rubbing and wearing of the outer sheets how 
it has been carried and handled and pored over, in a 
day when every single book was a treasure of price : 
in such days as were when war arose because Saint 
Columba, entrusted with a book of the Psalms, 
copied it swiftly and secretly and went off with a new 
treasure. St. Finnen, who owned the original, ap- 
pealed to King Diarmuid at Tara. " The calf goes 
with the cow," said Diarmuid, deciding this early case 
of copyright. "That is an unjust decision, O 
King," said Columba, " and I will avenge it on you." 
The north sided with its own Saint, a battle was 


fought at Cuildrevne, near Sligo ; Columba's cham- 
pions conquered, and the copy was kept. Going down 
from age to age as a trophy, it was borne into battles 
whenever the O'Donnells took the field, but now the 
Cathachy or " Warrior Book," reposes peacefully under 
glass at the National Museum in Dublin. 

I must be forgiven that digression : no story in 
the history of Ireland should be dearer to folk of 
letters than this early dispute upon copyright. Colum- 
cille pirated the manuscript, no doubt ; but Finnen 
had in it not an author's right, but such privilege 
as a jealous publisher sometimes claims to-day. All 
honour to the Cathach warrior saint and warrior 
book. But St. Patrick fought with nobody not so 
at least as to lead to battle ; though he too had a 
fiery temper, and the Book of Armagh tells us so. 

For the chief interest of that great relic lies not in 
its text of the Scriptures though that has a high 
value for scholars, but in the documents which it 
contains bearing on the life and character of Patrick. 
Chiefest of these is the Confessio or spiritual autobio- 
graphy of the saint, which closes the first division of 
the Book ; and at the end of it is written : " Hue 
usque volumes quod Patricius manu conscripsit sua. 
Septima decima Martii die translates est Patricius ad 
c<zhs" " So far the volume which Patrick wrote with 
his own hand. On the seventeenth day of March 
Patrick was translated to heaven." 

This does not mean that in the Book of Armagh 
we have Patrick's autograph. What it does mean is 



that Ferdomnach the scribe was transcribing from 
the original and added this note when he came to 
the end of what Patrick had written. But in after 
days, when men had either forgotten, or chose to 
forget, how the scriba optimus of Armagh had been 
commanded by Archbishop Torbach to prepare for 
the Church of Armagh this superb transcript of the 
treasured documents, Armagh asserted boldly that it 
possessed actually (as the colophon could be inter- 
preted to state) " the volume which Patrick transcribed 
with his own hand." And is not this curious ? 
in every place through the Book where the scribe, 
after the usual fashion, had set his signature in the 
pious fashion " Pro Ferdomnacho Ores" " Pray for 
Ferdomnach," careful hands went to work, and with 
knife and sponge obliterated the inscription. 

It was a fraud pious and therefore explicable. 
By 937 A.D. the Book was so famous that, as we read 
in the Four Masters, " A case (Cumhdacti) was 
provided for the Canoin Patraicc by Donnchadh, son 
of Flann, king of Ireland." The name " Patrick's 
Canon " implied probably that the text of Scripture 
was that which Patrick sanctioned : and if the saint's 
autograph authority could be added, why, so much 
the better. The Cumhdach was doubtless a case of 
jewelled metal like that in which the Cathach has 
been preserved : but the Book as we have it to-day 
is enclosed in a Pblaire or satchel of stamped leather, 
wrought with Celtic design and evidently antique, 
but probably made originally for some other volume, 


as it does not fit exactly. It suggests the processional 
use of the Book which was certainly borne in state, 
at peaceful ceremonies, if not in fight like the 
Cathach ; and the privilege of bearing the relic and 
of keeping it in safe custody was from early times 
committed to a special officer the Maor or Steward, 
who was rewarded with a grant of eight townlands. 

We do not know in whose custody the Book was, 
thirty years after its completion, when the Danes 
swooped on Armagh, and Turgesius, their chief, 
established his court here in the city of Patrick. At 
all events, the Book escaped the Danes ; they left no 
mark on its story. Not so their conqueror. 

It was a great day for the Maor, and a great day 
for the Book, when book and bearer were summoned 
in 1004 to a display before the greatest of all 
Ireland's rulers. After a long lifetime of war and 
policy, Brian of the Tribute had at last become High 
King, and now at the age of sixty-three (yet 
with the greatest achievement of his life ten years 
ahead of him) he made a royal progress through his 
realm. He stayed a week in Armagh, offered a ring 
of twenty ounces in gold on St. Patrick's altar, and 
confirmed the customary claims of Patrick's See. 
His decision stands registered on a page of the Book 
by his secretary and confessor. 

" Saint Patriek when going to heaven decreed that the entire fruit 
of his labour, as well of baptism and of causes as of alms, should 
be rendered to the apostolic city which in the Scotic tongue is 
called Arddmacha. This I have found in the records of the Scots. 

K 2 


(This) I have written, namely, Calvus Perennis, in the presence of 
Brian, Emperor of the Scots; and what I have written he has 
determined on behalf of all the kings of Maceria." 

It is a vivid picture which rises up as you look at 
the stained brown page where these characters barely 
legible, so many have bent over the book and thumbed 
it there stand in the blank corner of a page, in a 
handwriting wholly different from the body of the 
text. There is the grey old warrior standing 
by, wise in battle, wiser still in statecraft, yet 
unskilled in letters, while his anm-chara, or 'soul- 
friend,' Maolsuthain (whose name, " The Ever Bald," 
is Latinised as Calvus Perennis), sits entering the 
record with due care on the volume already so 
venerable. Notice that the sovereignty has departed 
from Tara : Brian speaks for the kings of Maceria, 
that is " Stone fort " the Latin equivalent of Cashel. 

That was a great day surely for the Book. Yet a 
greater and sadder came ten years later, after that 
Good Friday at Clontarf in 1014. From Brian's last 
battlefield where he finally broke the power of the 
Danes, the men of Ireland carried him and his son 
Murrough the hero of the fight to Patrick's 
cathedral : and who can doubt that more than once in 
those solemn obsequies, which lasted twelve days and 
nights, the Book was borne in sad state before the 
great king's coffin ? After that date the history of 
Ireland is overcast and the Book shared in the 
national fortunes. There was dissension in Armagh 
in 1134, and St. Malachy O'Morgair drove out 


Niall son of Aedh from the see : but Niall carried 
with him in flight the Canoin Patraicc and that other 
great relic, the Bachal Isa, or Staff of Jesus : and the 
possession of them being nine points of the law in 
his favour, he was able to return. 

In 1179, an O'Rogan took an oath on the Book, 
forswore himself, was exiled for the offence, and died 
suddenly. It is easy to see where O'Rogan and 
many others took their oath by laying a hand on the 
volume ; for two pages at which it naturally falls 
open are rubbed" and discoloured almost past reading. 

Veneration for the relic was not confined to the 
Irish. In 1177 when John de Courcy, Earl of 
Ulster, captured Downpatrick, the Primate was in 
the fort, and the Book was in the Primate's train. 
But soon after, de Courcy restored the Book to 
Armagh I should not wonder, however, if he kept 
the precious Cumhdach. The Book, at all events, was 
safe with its hereditary custodians, who had by this time 
acquired a surname from their duty MacMhaoir, 
which is Englished sometimes MacMoyre, sometimes 
Wyre. The name does not survive to-day, but there 
are good grounds for believing that it was deliberately 
abandoned : for the record of the MacMoyres ends 
in the blackest infamy. 

On June 29th, 1662, Florence MacMoyre, then 
steward or keeper, wrote his name in the Book on a 
blank page " Liber Florentine Muire" with the date 
in Latin. This Florence was cousin of John Mac- 
Moyre, a Franciscan friar of ill-repute whom Oliver 


Plunket, then Archbishop of Armagh, had suspended 
for various crimes ; and the unfrocked friar, seeking 
to injure the Archbishop, " often avowed his deter- 
mination to bring him to the scaffold," and " could 
find no other names for him than Elymas, Barjesus, 
Simon Magus and Oliver Cromwell ! " The political 
circumstances lent a ready machinery. In Ireland 
MacMoyre tried accusations and failed before a jury 
at Dundalk : but in the London of Titus Oates's day 
a fairer field lay open. An Irish Popish plot had to 
be invented to back up the English fabrication, and 
Shaftesbury sent over agents to suborn testimony. 
These recruited first John MacMoyre and afterwards 
his cousin Florence, the keeper. But they omitted 
to provide travelling money, and, to raise this, 
Florence pawned the Book for five pounds. 

Among them they swore away Plunket's life, 
though it is hardly to be supposed that the court 
believed their testimony. Jeffreys, who prosecuted, 
was careful to allow the Archbishop neither time nor 
means to establish his innocence : and so was perpet- 
rated a most infamous judicial murder. Little good it 
did the perjurers ; they were detained in prison, starv- 
ing and unpitied, and when at last Florence Wyre 
got home, he could not afford to redeem his pledge. 
In 1707 it was in the possession of Mr. Brownlow in 
county Down a Protestant gentleman who showed 
intelligence and care. He as we learn from Edward 
Lhwyd, the antiquarian, who saw it with him put in 
order the scattered leaves, numbered and headed them, 


and caused them to be rebound in their old cover. 
With the Brownlow family it remained for six 
generations, till in 1846 the then owner generously 
deposited it in the Library of the Royal Irish Aca- 
demy for the use of students. In 1 853 it was bought 
by Dr. Reeves for 300, but by him ceded to the 
Primate Lord John George Beresford, who made it 
over as a gift to Trinity College. 

Such is the story of the actual volume : it must 
be completed by some view of the services it has 
rendered to scholars. The opening document contains 
the two earliest Lives of Saint Patrick, written respec- 
tively by Muirchu and Tirechan between the years 
660 and 700. Probus, who wrote a Life in the tenth 
century, may have used this Book: and almost certainly 
the monk Jocelin, author of another biography, did so. 
For Jocelin was a monk of Chester, transferred about 
1183 to Down under the auspices of de Courcy : 
and he tells us that he began to write at the instance 
of de Courcy, who had a special affection for 
St. Patrick, and who, as we have seen, had for 
sometime been in possession of the Book. From that 
date onward, for a matter of four centuries, there 
was little thought and leisure for art or literature, 
scholarship or theology, within the four seas of Ireland. 
In the pause between the wars of Elizabeth and 
the wars of Cromwell, letters began to be thought of 
again in a very new aspect. It was now the 
English divine Ussher greatest of all the Protestant 
Primates who began to investigate curiously the 


Religion of the Ancient Irish. He saw and used this 
book (still in the custody of its hereditary keepers) 
about 1630, and Muirchu and Tirechan afford the 
earliest materials for Irish history known to him. 
But from Ussher's day until the revival of interest in 
Irish study about a century ago, the Book lay by, a 
mere curiosity. In 1827 the Patrician documents 
which it contained were first published in print by 
Sir William Betham. Petrie, O'Donovan, and Monck 
Mason drew on the original ; and finally when it 
was placed in the Royal Irish Academy a great 
scholar went to work on it. Dr. Charles Graves 
(not yet Bishop of Limerick), by extraordinary 
acuteness and observation, determined absolutely the 
date and name of the scribe. O'Curry had noticed 
the erased entries: Graves succeeded in deciphering at 
one point the name Ferdomnach, and in another he 
read thus much : 

.... ACH HUNC . . . . M DICTANTE 

The first lacunae were easily filled " Ferdomnach " 
(whose signature had been deciphered elsewhere) hum 
librum " ; That is : " Ferdomnach wrote this book at 
the dictation of .... ach, the successor of Patrick." 

If Ferdomnach were placed, it would be easily 
decided who was the Archbishop of his day : 
but the annals mentioned two Ferdomnachs, both 
eminent scribes. But with one only of these was there 
an Archbishop contemporary whose name ended in 


ach Torbach, whose primacy began and ended in 
807. It followed, then, that the writing was begun 
and ended in that year by the second Ferdomnach ; 
and since in a marginal note at the end of Matthew's 
gospel this scribe tells us that he finished copying 
that gospel on the feast of the saint, we can date 
the writing of this colophon absolutely to September 
2ist, 807. By such means knowledge is built up 

Since Graves's day scholars, Protestant and Catholic, 
lay and ecclesiastical, have found employment on the 
Book : but the complete edition and reproduction of 
it is not yet given to the world. This work has been 
long in doing : Reeves was accumulating material for 
it during nearly half a century, and he it was who 
ascertained practically all the strange history of the 
manuscript. Since his death in 1892 the task has been 
handed over along with his notes to another scholar 
of whom it does not become his son to speak. Yet I 
think that the spirit of Ferdomnach, scriba optimus, 
whose patient, unwearying, ungrudging skill diffused 
itself over every line of his great task, shirking no- 
thing, scamping nothing, might confidently be called 
up to sit in judgment on the labours of this later day. 

I have told the Book's story, not, I hope, without 
affording some glimpse of the vicissitudes of Irish 
learning. Now before I turn to some of the events 
which filled the centuries of warfare, let me complain 
of a hardship. In all of Irish history since the Normans 
landed, only two really great defeats were inflicted by 


our people on the English ; and either of them is a 
subject on which an Irish pen would willingly enlarge. 

Bridge over Oona River. 

Yet both took place within one small district, and that 
district is in the near neighbourhood of Armagh 
where there is already too much to write about. How- 
ever, some account must be given of the valley of the 

iv PORTMORE 139 

Blackwater the cockpit of Ulster during the 
Elizabethan wars. 

In that long-drawn-out struggle the North was the 
last to be subdued. English power only slowly and 
tentatively pushed itself through the gap in the 
northern mountains, to the O'Neills' country about 
Armagh. Shane O'Neill once burnt city and cathedral 
to the ground one of Armagh's sixteen burnings ; 
yet the English came back ; and, after the Desmond 
wars had made the peace of desolation throughout 
Munster, Elizabeth's statesmen forced Hugh O'Neill, 
Earl of Tyrone then ostensibly a loyal subject to 
permit the erection of a strong fort on the Black- 
water, at Portmore, now Blackwater town, about five 
miles north of Armagh. O'Neill's own stronghold 
was at Dungannon on the south-west of Lough 
Neagh : and issuing thence in 1595 he razed Port- 
more to the ground. In the next year his kinsman, 
Con O'Neill, captured Armagh by a stratagem, and 
dismantled the place ; yet it was not held, and the 
English reoccupied it and soon renewed the fortifica- 
tions. For in these wars the English were disciplined 
and equipped soldiers, fighting men who had neither 
ordnance nor skill in the use of any machinery of 
war ; and behind the English was a great though 
grudging treasury, behind O'Neill only the wealth of 
his tribe in cattle. The English worked like men 
building a dyke across a river : now and then a fierce 
flood would come and sweep all away ; but the work 
began again, relentlessly. In 1597 an English army 


under De Burgh advanced to re-occupy Portmore. 
O'Neill drew them across the river, skirmishing past 
Benburb till finally he defeated them at Drum- 
fliuch, near to where Battleford Bridge now stands. 
But the garrison had been established in Portmore, and 
there, under one Captain Williams, it resisted all efforts 
to dislodge it. In the summer of 1598 these efforts 
became fierce : yet the Irish had neither skill nor 
material for reducing fortified places, and were obliged 
to content themselves with blockade. Gradually 
the tough garrison were being starved out : but a 
great army was known to be preparing, and O'Neill 
made ready for it. Red Hugh O'Donnell, most 
brilliant of Irish chiefs, came from Tyrconnell to take 
a hand in the fight ; men were busy deepening ditches 
and " plashing " the track which led from Armagh to 
Portmore. In the fort Williams " had his eyes twisted 
in his head with looking for the red flag," as an Irish 
historian puts it ; and at last the relieving force came, 
on the ninth of August. Bagenal led them, whose 
sister O'Neill had carried off from Newry to be his 
wife : the armies met on the ground which O'Neill 
had chosen and prepared, at the Yellow Ford, about 
two miles north of Armagh ; and in a few hours 
Bagenal was slain, and the English in disordered 
retreat, having suffered the greatest reverse experi- 
enced by them in that century. 

You can cross the Yellow Ford to-day without 
knowing water to be in it ; a mere culvert under the 
roadway leads off the drainage from what was once a 


deep bog with trenches full of stained oozings from 
some iron deposit, but now is reclaimed land. The 
name even is forgotten by most, but the townland 
is still Bagenalstown : and I found one man at 
least to whom the past was living. His little 
holding lay on the south side of the passage, and 
on the west of the road : and he pointed eastward 
to the ridge of bumpy hills dividing us from 
Armagh. Over there, he said, Bagenal reached 
Grange Church by sunrise ; it was eleven o'clock 
when he attacked the first line of trenches, down in the 
hollow. Further east, all was a big bog, out of which 
in living memory a stream flowed which turned two 
mills : and on the slope rising beyond the Yellow 
Ford two lines of entrenchment used to be traceable 
where to-day some farm houses stand. According to 
'him, the English got as far as the entrenchments, but 
were driven back into the bog. 

A full account of the battle can be found in 
Mitchell's brilliant little book, easily procurable any- 
where except in the libraries of Armagh. I was more 
interested in my informant than in his information. 
He had no Irish, remembered no trace of Irish in that 
county ; only that he had had friends out of Monag- 
han who used to say their prayers in Irish. Emain 
Macha was of no interest to him : but he was keenly 
alive to the fact that his forefathers were pure Irish, 
and followers of the O'Neills. His mind was filled 
with the war of two races a war not yet ended. For 
him the cause of the Catholics and the cause of Ire- 


land were identical, and he would trust no Protestant. 
He had been warned not to trust Parnell, he had trusted 
him : what had come of it ? It must be Catholics for 
Catholics in future ; the other side never made the 
mistake of trusting men not of their own religion. 
Bigotry, in his opinion, had never been fiercer than at 
present. That is the type of mind which you find in 
Ireland in any place where Catholics and Protestants 
are equally enough divided to maintain faction fights : 
and it will prevail until Protestants are willing to 
take their place as the natural equals and not the 
natural superiors of their Catholic neighbours. Yet 
even through it all there runs neighbourliness, and here 
is a proof of it. In 1898 the three hundredth anni- 
versary of Beul an Atha Buidhe (the Yellow 
Ford) was celebrated here, and my friend was asked 
for the loan of his field for the proceedings. " Where 
will ye put your cows the morrow ? " his Protestant 
neighbour asked him. My friend said he would put 
them "up by, along the road." " Ye will not," said 
the Protestant. " Is it to have them scairt to death 
with the bands and drums and the like of that trash 
that will be coming down out of the town ? Ye'll 
put them in with my cows, to the back of the hill here, 
and let them stay till you fetch them yoursel'." And 
on the day of the celebration, my friend said, there 
were as many Protestants as Catholics in it, and 
you would not tell one from the other. So perhaps 
after all, he overstates the bigotry. 

At Blackwater town I could find no trace of the 

iv BENBURB 143 

fort, nor tradition of it : but I met a stray labouring 
man on the bridge who knew all about Benburb, 
where I was going, and it was he who suggested to 
me the very picturesque route which I followed. 
Short of Benburb, I turned down a steep hill to the 
left, crossed a bridge, and took to the canal track. 
It was a longish journey between river and canal, but 
it repaid me. The canal was remarkable in itself, 
rising by a rapid succession of locks the steepest 
gradient, a bargeman told me, in all the great and 
neglected system of Irish waterways. 

The chief beauty of that walk was the cliff of 
Benburb, steep to over the river on the northern bank, 
and crowned with a noble ruin of castle once belong- 
ing to the O'Neills. Yet I was more interested in 
the mills which nestled below it : for Benburb is 
now a thriving industrial centre. This stretch of 
river, with three factories or mills on two miles of it, 
made me realise the sharp conflict which goes on 
through the whole basin draining into Lough Neagh, 
between fishery laws and economic requirements. All 
these rivers running into the great inland sea are 
spawning grounds for salmon, and the Bann fisheries 
are of immense value. Government has to make a 
choice between the fishing and the milling, for every 
millowner is fighting for every extra inch that can 
be put on to his weir : and on that dry day in 
autumn I could not conceive how a salmon ever 
struggled up. Yet I saw a fish jump beyond all the 
obstacles, beyond Battleford Bridge, in the deep stretch 


where the little river Oona meets the Blackwater, 
just beside the angle of meadow into which, if Mr. 
Taylor is right, Owen Roe penned the Scotch Crom- 
wellian army about sunset on the 4th of June, 1646, 
and hurled men and horses promiscuously into the 
unfordable waters. 

I am not going now to write of Owen O'Neill, 
Tyrone's illustrious nephew, the mirror of chivalry 
and honour, the best soldier who ever fought for 
Ireland, the first of her sons who ever fought not for 
a clan or a province but for a nation : the man whose 
untimely death was the worst of all casual misfor- 
tunes that ever fell on that most unlucky country. 
Mr. Taylor's little book is excellent and is cheap, 
and who ever goes to Benburb should have it in one 
pocket and Mitchell's O'Neill in the other. But I 
will add here one incident of the day of Benburb 
which might fire the dullest imagination. 

The Franciscan friars were established in Armagh 
somewhere before 1260, and at what date they were 
driven out of their friary (whose ruins are now a 
beautiful object in the palace grounds) we do not 
definitely know, except that in 1551 soldiers were 
garrisoned there. Yet they still fluttered about their 
ancient abode ; in 1565 two friars were flogged to 
death by English soldiers : in 1575, another, a very 
old man, after being beaten with clubs was hanged 
with his own cord. For their greater safety Hugh 
O'Neill moved them in 1587 to Brantry, in what 
was then a thickly wooded district between the left 



bank of the Oona and the Blackwater. Here 
during the persecutions they had peace, and could 
offer shelter to fugitives. Owen Roe in the early 
days of his Irish campaigning, before he had got 
together the disciplined force which shattered Mun- 
roe's veterans, sheltered here for a night in 1643, 
when in retreat before the enemy. Next day, Sir 
Robert Stewart, hot on the track, set fire to the 
friary where his quarry had rested. That was an 
ugly omen for the friars to remember on the 4th of 
June three years later. All day long they could see 
the smoke of the battle drawing near to them ; tor 
O'Neill was deliberately and slowly falling back 
before the assailants from Caledon along the north 
bank of the Blackwater drawing Munroe to the 
place where he wished to see him. But the friars 
would not know that. They would only know that 
the battle was approaching and that the Irish were 
in retreat. So it endured through the day. O'Neill's 
decisive onslaught was only delivered when the low 
sun was full in the eyes of his opponents ; and night 
fell on that wild work. The friars were still watching 
and waiting, till near midnight. Then their dogs 
began to bark clamorously : some one was coming, 
many people were coming, feet were loud on the 
gravel, there was knocking at the gate. They heard 
the gate opened, they heard cries in the passage 
shouts of triumph and rejoicing ; and into the quiet 
convent streamed the leaders of the Irish army, Owen 
himself at the head of them, with his chaplain Friar 

iv BENBURB 147 

Boetius Egan, who had gone out that morning from 
the convent, and who had stood all day in the front 
of the fight. Along the walls of the corridors men, 
bloodstained and dusty, ranged bloodstained and dusty 
trophies thirty-one colours and a standard taken 
from the enemy. They sang Te Deum that night in 
the quiet woods of Brantry. 

L 2 



IT has to be admitted that there is sometimes rain 
in Ireland. Two such times coincided with my visits 
to Sligo ; and perhaps it is as well, for this chapter 
can be somewhat Jess lengthy than others. 

What rests in my mind is the impression of a 
prosperous but lazy-looking town, with solid well- 
built grey and white houses, and a broad river 
curving through it, so that the spacious streets are 
always leading to one bridge or other. The port, 
which must be a place of some traffic for Sligo is 
one of the few Irish towns with an increasing popu- 
lation I left unvisited : I saw only a far off view 
of the long estuary : but with the river I made 
pretty thorough acquaintance, for it is easily and 
pleasantly known. Trailing a minnow, you will paddle 
up to Lough Gill in about an hour, and in your pro- 
gress may catch two or three small jack, possibly no 
doubt, a big one ; but anyhow pike are so plentiful 
that one of the most beautiful lakes in Ireland is 
negligible for the flyfisher. The river, so broad and 


placid between its sedgy banks and the rich wooding 
behind them, is a kind of prelude to Lough Gill : 
a gentle poetic access, broadening gradually, till 
almost without perceiving it you have reached the 
opening of long vistas, of wide island-studded ex- 
panses with mountains heaving up behind them. But 
the special beauty of river, lake, and islands lies in 
the wooding. Except at Killarney I have never seen 
it equalled. Ilex is everywhere, and down by the 
water's edge, when I was there last autumn, spindle 
and dogwood made patches, ruddy or crimson. Every 
corner has been planted by owners who loved varied 
foliage, and who -found here a soil and climate 
answerable to all hopes. Your boatman (it is 
scarcely possible that you can escape Mr. Roderic 
Gallagher), besides dilating copiously on the beauties 
of the lake, will point you on the north-western 
shore to the flat-capped hill of Breffny, which is 
called O'Rourke's table : will remind you how 
Dervorguilla fled from the O'Kourke with Dermot 
MacMurrough ; and will, if you allow him, declaim 
" The valley lay smiling before me," with a fervour 
that should endear him to all who value the memory 
of Moore. 

" There was a time, falsest of women, 

When BrefFni's good sword would have sought 
That man through a million of foemen 

Who dared but to wrong thee in thought." 

So it goes. Yet I confess that in the large and 
stormswept landscapes of western Ireland which 

v BREFFNY 151 

Moore never saw Moore's poetry seems strangely 
out of place. Breffny can be turned " to favour and to 
prettiness," but only by one who knows and loves the 
country. Here is a verse which might well tempt 
one to explore the many-folded bights and creeks 
and recesses that make up Sligo Bay. 

" The great waves of the Atlantic sweep storming on their way, 

Shining green and silver with the hidden herring shoal ; 
But the little waves of Breffny have drenched my heart in spray, 
And the little waves of Breffny go stumbling through my 

But at Sligo, thoughts of modern literature would 
naturally turn to a more important talent than Miss 
Eva Gore Booth's : for here Mr. W. B. Yeats was 
born and bred, and many a harmonious name from this 
countryside is woven into the shimmering fabric of his 
verses Dromahair, Collooney, Lisadill, and a score 
of others. Little wonder that his imagination should 
be fairy-haunted and filled with the legendary past 
of Ireland ; for about Sligo are very cities of the 
ancient dead. At Carrowmore is found such a group 
of cairns, cromlechs, and stone circles as has no parallel 
in these islands: and in the Hazelwood deer park, tri- 
lithons like those of Stonehenge mark some place of 
august ceremonial or interment. Where such things are 
in Ireland there is also great store of legend. But 
at Sligo imagination has been busy chiefly with the 
two mountains, which from north and south over- 
look the town. Easily known is the southern, 
Knocknarea ; for on top, conspicuous wherever its 


summit can be seen against the sky, is a vast 
cairn with which men still link the name of Maeve. 
But the fierce Queen, who led the hosting of Con- 
naught into Ulster in quest of the Brown Bull, is 
here no human personage but a ruler of the Sidhe ; 
and under no other leadership than Maeve's, I fancy. 

" The host is riding from Knocknarea 

And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare, 
Caoilte tossing his flaming hair 
And Niamh calling, 'Away, come away.' " 

Mr. Yeats indeed knows, no one better, that Maeve 
belongs to an older cycle of story than Caoilte 
MacRonan, or the beautiful Niamh ; but he knows 
also that popular imagination has blended her into 
that group of heroic figures whose fame has en- 
croached on the glories of the Red Branch, and who 
made the theme of his first published volume. The 
Wanderings of Oisin modernises an episode taken 
from the cluster of sagas which English readers since 
the day of Macpherson know as "Ossianic," but which 
in Irish are called Fenian tales. And there is no 
finer story in all this cluster than that which reaches 
its tragic close here on the northern mountain, Ben- 

It is with the Fenian cycle rather than with Sligo 
that this chapter is properly concerned, and the legend 
must first be set into its historic position. I have tried 
to show that the Red Branch stories belong to the first 
generations of the Christian era, and had their origin in 


an older race than that which ruled in Tara. But in 
the Fenian cycle, Tara is the centre round which 
legends group themselves, as did the Red Branch 
tales round Emain Macha. Moreover they are fixed 
to a definite time. 

In the days of the great King Cormac MacArt 
about the middle of the third century there existed 
in Ireland a body of organised professional fighting 
men, the Fianna, under the leadership of Fionn 
MacCumhail or, as the name is sounded in English, 
Finn MacCool. There were at other times, and in 
other places of Scotch and Irish Gaeldom, other 
bodies o>$ fianna\ the name means roughly, " braves " ; 
and fiannaidheacht is the common word in Irish to- 
day for telling stories about the famous warriors and 
battles of ancient pagan Ireland. But the Fenian 
cycle of story 'par excellence is the group of legends 
dealing with Finn, his son Ossian, Ossian's son 
Oscar, and their comrades and rivals, Caoilte Mac- 
Ronan, Goll MacMorna, Conan Maol (the Bald), 
and a score of others ; of whom the foremost for 
beauty and swiftness and the love of women was 
Diarmuid son of Duibhne, otherwise called Diarmuid 
Donn (the Brown-haired) and Diarmuid of the Love 
Spot. What historic reality lies behind the legends 
must be enquired later ; for the present let us tell 
the story which links the names of Finn and 
Diarmuid for ever with Benbulben, abridging it 
from Mr. Standish Hayes O'Grady's translation of 
two manuscripts, one copied in 1780 by a county 


Waterford schoolmaster, and the other in 1842 by a 
native of Kilrush in county Clare. 

One morning, at Almhuin (Knockaulin, in county 
Kildare), where was the fortified camp of the Fianna 
(an immense rath, existing to this day), Finn was up 
by daybreak, and Ossian, with Diorruing, another of 
Finn's people, asked the cause of such early rising. 
"I am without a wife since Maighneis died," said 
Finn, "and no man has slumber or sweet sleep who 
is without a fitting wife." Then Diorruing said that 
he could name a fit mate for the chief, and that 
was Grain ne, the daughter of King Cormac. Finn 
answered that there was strife between him and 
Cormac (for the Fianna were allies rather than 
servants of Cormac or of any King), and that he 
would not ask to be refused. Then Ossian 1 and 
Diorruing undertook to make a journey on their own 
account, and bear the refusal themselves if it were to 
be borne ; and so they came to Tara. Cormac 
welcomed them, but, when they told their errand, he 
answered that there was not a king's son or battle- 
champion in Ireland to whom Grainne had not given 
refusal, that the reproach all fell on him, and there- 
fore, that they must get her tidings from herself. So 
he conducted them to Grain ne'sgrianan, or windowed 

1 This name in the north of Ireland is pronounced much as 
Macpherson spelt it ; but in the other provinces, according to the 
Irish spelling, Oisin, Usheen. In writing English I prefer to use 
the generally accepted form, though the Irish has great charms 
for a rhymer, and Mr. Yeats employs it. 


sunny chamber, in the rath at Tara which still bears 
her name, and told her of their purpose. And the 
Princess answered : " If he be a fitting son-in-law for 
thee, why should he not be a fitting husband for 
me ? " After that, a tryst was made for a fortnight 
from that night. 

The seven battalions of the Fianna were gathered 
from all quarters of Ireland to Tara for that great 
wedding, and they went into the banqueting hall 
whose seven hundred feet of length can be paced out, 
and whose doorways can be distinguished on the 
green hilltop to-day. Cqrmac sat at the head of the 
hall, and his wife at his left shoulder, and Grainne at 
her left again ; and Finn sat on the King's right, 
and Ossian at Finn's right, and the chiefs of the 
Fianna were ranged beyond Ossian, and over against 
them were Cairbre Liffechair, Cormac's heir, and the 
other chiefs and princes of the royal house. 

Then Grainne, as she sat, held talk with a Druid- 
poet of the Fianna, and to him she said that it was a 
wonder Finn asked her for himself and not for Ossian ; 
" for it were fitter to give me to such as he than to a 
man that is older -than my father." The poet told 
her it would be ill for her if such a saying were heard 
from her. So she said no more of that, but she 
questioned him of the names of the Fianna who sat 
before her, and he did not fail to answer. She asked 
of this one and that, and lastly, " Who," she asked, 
" was the freckled, sweet-worded man, who had the 
curling, dusky black hair and cheeks berry-red?" 


That, he said, was Diarmuid " the white-toothed, of 
the lightsome countenance, the best lover of women 
and of maidens that was in the whole world." Then 
Grainne sent for a jewelled cup from her grianan, and 
she mixed a drink in it, and she sent it to Finn and 
to Cormac, and to the Queen Mother, and to Cairbre 
Liffechair, and the princes of the King's house ; and 
upon each one, as they drank, there came " a stupor of 
sleep and deep slumber." When they were all sleep- 
ing she rose up from her chair, and came and laid 
bonds of obligation on Diarmuid that he should take 
her away with him. " Why have you done this ? " said 
Diarmuid. Then she told them how from the window 
of her grianan she had seen a hurling match between 
the Fianna and the men of Tara, and Diarmuid 
winning the goal in it ; " and " (she said) " I turned 
the light of mine eyes and of my sight upon thee that 
day, and I never gave that love to any other from that 
time to this, and will not ever." Then she went out, 
making a tryst with him to follow her ; and Diarmuid 
took counsel with his comrades. Ossian and Oscar 
told him that he must abide by the bonds she had laid 
on him, for he was bound to refuse no woman. " I 
say," said Caoilte, " that I have a fitting wife, and yet 
I had rather than the wealth of the world it had been 
to me that Grainne gave that love." " Follow 
Grainne," said Diorruing, "though thy death will 
come of it, and I grieve for it." " Is that the counsel 
of you all to me?" said Diarmuid. "It is," said 
Ossian and all the others together. Then Diarmuid 


rose up and, weeping, took his farewell of the Fianna ; 
for from that day he must be a hunted man. 

And now the story tells of his flight with Grainne 
from Tara to Athlone on the Shannon, and his cross- 
ing into Clanricarde, and of the tracking by Finn's 
trackers, and of many escapes when Angus of the 
Tuatha de Danann came out of his dwelling in Brugh 
na Boinne to shelter his foster son ; of their travel- 
lings from place to place through the length and 
breadth of Ireland, and their restings, marked in 
popular imagination by the cromlechs or giants' 
graves. Perhaps a score of these, from Ben Edair 
on Dublin Bay, north to Donegal, and south again 
to Kerry, are called leabuidh Diarmuid agus 
Grainne, " the bed of Diarmuid and Grainne." 
Men of Lochlann were sent by Finn to take the 
fugitives since the Fianna were half-hearted in 
the pursuit but Diarmuid defeated them, part by 
subtlety and part by sheer fighting. And at last 
Oscar sided with Diarmuid, and the two made 
such havoc of Finn's people that Angus of Brugh 
easily made peace between chief and rebel : and 
Diarmuid was granted his own lands, as well as 
Keshcorran in Sligo for a dowry with the King's 
daughter. And on the round hill of Keshcorran, 
where bones of elk and bear are found in the caves of 
the Fenians, Diarmuid and Grainne settled down and 
lived for a space rich and prosperous with house and 
herds and children. 

But in the end Grainne was not content with what 


she had, and she told Diarmuid it was a shame to be 
said that the two best men in Ireland had never set 
foot in their house namely, Fionn, son of Cumhaill, 
and Cormac, son of Art. 

44 They are enemies to me," said Diarmuid. " Give 
them a feast and win their love," said Grainne. 44 I 
permit that," said Diarmuid. And the chiefs of 
Eire, and the seven battalions of the Fianna, came and 
were feasting for a year at Rathgrainne in Keshcorran. 

On the last night of that year Diarmuid was sleep- 
ing, when he heard the voice of a strange hound, and 
three times it woke him, and at last he went out to 
seek it. Grainne bid him take his surest weapons, 
the Sword of Manannan the Sea God, and the Ga Derg, 
the spear that never missed its cast. But he took 
lighter weapons of the chase, and out with him till 
he reached the top of Benbulben, and there he found 
Finn standing alone. 

44 It is the wild boar of Benbulben they are hunt- 
ing," said Finn, 44 and he has slain thirty of the 
Fianna this morning. Let us leave the hill to him." 
" I will not do that," said Diarmuid. Then Finn 
said that this was no hunt for Diarmuid ; for this 
boar was an enchanted beast, and the doom on it 
was, to have the same length of life as Diarmuid 
O'Duibhne. " I knew nothing of that spell," said 
Diarmuid. Then Finn went away from Diarmuid 
and refused to leave with him the hound Bran. 

' By my word,' quoth Diarmuid, ' it is to slay me thou hast 
made this hunt, O Finn ; and if it be here I am fated to die, I 
have no power now to shun it.' " 


Then he remembered Grainne's counsel, and wished 
for the Ga Derg : and in truth when the boar came, 
weapons broke on him. Diarmuid, leaping to avoid 
his charge, lit on his back, and was carried down the 
mountain and up it again, and at last the boar threw 
him and ripped his bowels ; but with a last throw of 
the sword hiit Diarmuid dashed out the beast's brains. 
There beside the carcase he lay bleeding, and Finn and 
the Fianna came up to him. 

" ' It likes me well to see thee in that plight, O Diarmuid,' 
quoth Fionn ; ' and I grieve that the women of Erin are not 
gazing now upon thee ; for thy excellent beauty is turned to ugli- 
ness, and thy choice form to deformity.' ' Nevertheless it is in 
thy power to heal me, O Fionn,' said Diarmuid, ' if it were thine 
own pleasure to do so.' 'How should I heal thee?' said Fionn. 
'Easily,' quoth Diarmuid, 'for when thou didst get the noble 
precious gift of divining at the B6inn, it was given to thee that to 
whomsoever thou shouldst give a drink from the palms of thy 
hands he should after that be young and sound from any sickness.' 
' Thou hast not deserved it of me that I should give thee that 
drink,' quoth Fionn. ' That is not true,' said Diarmuid." 

And as he lay, he called to mind how when Finn 
was beleaguered and his house in flames, he himself 
went out alone and routed the enemy. 

" ' And had it been that night that I asked thee for a drink thou 
wouldest have given it me, and thou wouldest not have done so 
more justly than now.' 

"'That is not true,' said Finn, 'thou hast ill deserved that I 
should give thee a drink or do thse any good thing ; for the night 
that thou wentest with me to Tara thou didst bear away GraMnne 
from me in presence of the men of Erin when thou wast thyself 
my guard over her in Tara that night.' " 


Diarmuid said : " Grainne put bonds upon me, and 
the guilt was not mine." And again he reminded 
Finn of how he had saved Finn himself, and 
the Fianna, when they were bound and under 

" And had I asked a drink of thee that night, O Fionn, I would 
have gotten it ! Many is the strait, moreover, that hath overtaken 
thee and the Fenians of Erin from the first day in which I came 
among the Fenians, in which I have perilled my body and my life 
for thy sake ; and therefore thou shouldst not do me this foul 
treachery. Moreover, many a brave warrior and valiant hero of 
great prowess hath fallen by thee, nor is there an end of them yet ; 
and shortly there will come a dire discomfiture upon the Fenians, 
which will not leave them many descendants. Nor is it for thee I 
grieve, O Fionn, but 'for Oisin and for Oscar and the rest of my 
faithful fond comrades. And as for thee, O Oisin, thou shalt be 
left to lament after the Fenians, and thou shalt sorely lack me yet, 
O Fionn.' 

" Then said Oscar, ' O Fionn, though I am more nearly akin to 
thee than to Diarmuid O'Duibhne, I will not suffer thee but to 
give Diarmuid a drink ; and I swear, moreover, that were there 
any other prince in the world to do Diarmuid O'Duibhne such 
treachery, there should only escape whichever of us should have 
the strongest hand ; and bring him a drink without delay.' I 
know no well whatever upon this mountain,' said Fionn. ' That 
is not true,' said Diarmuid, ' for but nine paces from thee is the 
best well of pure water in the world.' 

" After that Fionn went to the well and raised the full of his 
two hands of the water ; but he had not reached more than half 
way to Diarmuid when he let the water run down through his 
hands, and he said that he could not bring the water. I swear,' 
said Diarmuid, ' that it was of thine own will thou didst let it 
from thee.' Fionn went for the water the second time, and he 
had not come more than the same distance when he let it through 
his hands, having thought upon Grainne. Then Diarmuid hove a 
piteous sigh of anguish when he saw that. ' I swear before my 


arms,' said Oscar, 'that if thou bring not the water speedily, 
O Fionn, there shall not leave the tulach but thou or I.' Fionn 
returned to the well the third time because of that speech which 
Oscar made to him, and brought the water to Diarmuid, and as he 
came up, the life parted from the body of Diarmuid. Then that 
company of the Fenians of Erin that were present raised three 
exceeding loud shouts, wailing for Diarmuid O'Duibhne, and Oscar 
looked fiercely and wrathfully upon Fionn, and what he said was, 
that it was a greater pity that Diarmuid should be dead than it 
would have been had Finn perished, and that the Fenians had lost 
their mainstay in battle by means of him." 

When Grainne saw the Fianna coming into 
Rathgrainne and Finn leading Diarmuid's hound by 
the leash, she knew what had happened, and labour 
came on her, and she bore three dead sons. Great 
threatening she made then : and she went to her sons 
that were nearly grown men, and she urged upon them 
to take up the pursuit of vengeance for their father, 
arid to train themselves in all the arts of valour till 
they could requite his death on Finn. When word of 
this came to Finn, he was for mustering the Fianna to 
cut off Diarmuid's children before they could rebel. 
But Ossian rose up and what he said was : 

*' ' The guilt of that is no man's but thine, and we will not go to 
bear out the deed that we have not done, and foul is the treachery 
that thou didst show towards Diarmuid O'Duibhne though at peace 
with him. According as thou hast planted the oak, so bend it 
thyself.' " 

Finn seeing that even his own kindred among the 
Fianna had set their faces against him, despaired of 
securing his power by violence ; but, being a man of 

craft no less than of war, he turned to a better device. 



" He got him to Rathgrainne without the knowledge of the 
Fenians of Erin, and without bidding them farewell, and greeted 
Grainne craftily, cunningly, and with sweet words. Grainne 
neither heeded nor hearkened to him, but told him to leave her 
sight, and straightway assailed him with her keen very sharp- 
pointed tongue. However Fionn left not plying her with sweet 
words and gentle loving discourse, until he had brought her to his 
own will ; and he had the desire of his heart and soul of her. 
After that Fionn and Grainne went their ways, and no tidings are 
told of them until they reached the Fenians of Erin ; and when 
they saw Fionn and Grainne coming towards them in that guise 
they gave one shout of derision and mockery at her, so that 
Grainne bowed her head through shame. 'We trow, O Fionn,' 
quoth Oisin, 'that thou wilt keep Grainne well from henceforth.' " 

And so Grainne's name comes down with the echo 
of that mockery hanging about it : and Finn himself, 
who had to be guarded from the consequence of his 
own misdeed by a woman's entreaty, is no paladin of 
romance. The paladins of the story are the younger 
men, Ossian and Oscar, Diarmuid the foster-son of 
Angus, and Caoilte always faithful. These men 
are of the same type as Cuchulain, Fergus, and 
Conall Cearnach. Yet in truth the interest of the 
Fenian stories lies chiefly not in the recital of feats 
of valour : it is a much more complex literary 
emotion that they evoke. If we fully understood 
the genesis of the Fenian literature a vast deal that 
is now hardly even guessed at in Irish history would 
become luminous. 

In the older manuscript collections of poem and story 
the Book of Leinster and the Book of the Dun 
Cow which go back to the eleventh and twelfth 


centuries, the Red Branch cycle dominates. Stories 
of Finn and his companions are few and unimportant. 
From the fifteenth century onwards the positions are 
reversed. Fenian legends are seen controlling the 
popular imagination ; the Fenian sagas ramify and 
develop; deeds that were originally told of Cuchulain 
and his comrades are now set down to Ossian or 
Oscar ; and not that only, but the romance literature 
of Europe becomes woven into the web. Arthur of 
Britain begins to figure in these tales, and even 
Charlemagne and Roland. The essential point, how- 
ever, concerns rather the setting and the purpose of 
these legends than their personages and incidents. 
We have no longer a plain bardic tale simply narrated: 
the story is thrown into the form of dialogue between 
questioner and answerer, between Pagan and Christian 
for the questioner is no less a person than St. 
Patrick himself. 

Legendary history at this point, perhaps, ceasing 
to be legendary tells us that in the reign of Cairbre 
Liffechair, who succeeded Cormac MacArt in A.D. 
266, the Fianna of Ireland grew so mutinous that 
Cairbre was forced to make war upon them, and finally 
annihilated their forces in the battle of Gowra (not 
far south of Tara), where he slew Oscar, but was him- 
self slain. From that date to the coming of Patrick 
is nearly a hundred and fifty years, but legend 
assigned to the Fianna a span of life in propor- 
tion to their strength, and here is an early form 
of the Fenian legend, which I take from Mr. 

M 2 


S. H. O'Grady's translation of the Colloquy of the 
Ancients : 

"When the battle of Comar, the battle of Gowra, and the 
battle of Ollarba had been fought, and after that the Fianna for the 
most part were extinguished, the residue of them in small bands 
and in companies had dispersed throughout all Ireland, until at the 
point of time which concerns us there remained not any but two 
good warriors only of the last of the Fianna : Ossian, son of Finn, 
and Caoilte, son of Crunnchu, son of Ronan (whose lusty vigour 
and power of spear-throwing were now dwindled down), and so 
many fighting men as with themselves made twice nine. These 
twice nine came out of the flowery-soiled bosky borders of 
Slievefuad (the Fews mountain in county Armagh), and into the 
Lughbarta bana, at this present called Lughmadh (anglice Louth), 
where, at the falling of the evening clouds, that night they were 
melancholy, dispirited." 

The story tells then how the " remnant of that 
great and goodly fellowship " decided to part, and 
how their parting was " a sundering of soul and 
body." Ossian went to the fairy mound, where 
dwelt his mother's people, for she was a woman of 
the Sidhe, but Caoilte held on by the Boyne till he 
came to the rath of Drumderg, where Patrick was : 

"Just then Patrick chanted the Lord's order of the mass, and 
lauded the Creator and pronounced benediction on the rath in which 
Finn MacCumall had been the rath of Drumderg. The clerics 
saw Caoilte and his band draw near them ; and fear fell on them 
before the tall men with their huge wolfdogs that accompanied 
them, for they were not people of one epoch or one time with the 

" Then Heaven's distinguished one, that pillar of dignity and 
angel on earth, Calpurn's son, Patrick, apostle of the Gael, rose 
and took the aspergillum to sprinkle holy water on the great men ; 


floating over whom until that day there had been (and were now) 
a thousand legions of demons. Into the hills and skalps, into the 
outer borders of the region and of the country, the demons forthwith 
departed in all directions ; after which the enormous men sat down." 

So Caoilte was made a Christian, and the colloquy 
tells how he accompanied Patrick in journeying 
through Ireland, and at each place told what he knew, 
and what great feat was done there by the Fianna. 
And at last, by Patrick's desire, he fetched Ossian 
also from the fairy mound, and the two old warriors 
came together to the assembly at Tara, and were 
telling of the great things that had been. But in 
this early version (written on vellum by three scribes 
for the pleasure of MacCarthy Riach, who died in 
1505) Caoilte, and not Ossian, was the chief narra- 
tor ; and the element which gives its peculiar colour 
to the typical Fenian legend is still wanting. The 
old men deplore the glory that is gone, and the 
ebbing of their own strength ; but there is no hint of 
a conflict between their mind and the mind of Patrick, 
who welcomes and honours them as the deposi- 
tories of a great tradition which he is eager to save 
and to record. Very different is the turn which 
later imagination gave to these dialogues. In this 
stage, Caoilte disappears altogether as interlocutor, 
and it is Ossian alone who is brought to Patrick. 
Imagination shaped also a tale of the manner of his 
coming, which Mr. Yeats wove into modern verse, 
calling it " The Wanderings of Oisin." Here is the 


There was a great feast of the Fianna held in days 
before trouble came on them, and as the warriors sat 
over the ale, into the hall there walked a woman of 
the fairies, and she offered love and a kingdom to any 
that would go with her over the sea and under the sea 
to her own country, Tir-nan-og, the land of the ever- 
young. Ossian leapt to the challenge, and though 
comrades tried to hold him back, and prophets warned 
him, he went with her. But after a while, long or 
short, of dalliance in her deathless country, he 
began to long for human company. He would go, 
he said. She answered him with a question, How 
long are you here? And he said that he knew only 
that he was there long enough. Then she told him 
that in the fairy life centuries of mortal time had 
gone over him, and that his own country would be 
changed out of all knowledge, and his comrades dusty 
and forgotten. But he answered that, right or wrong, 
he would go, and would come back. So she gave 
him a fairy horse, warning him not to set foot on the 
soil of Ireland, or he would never see Tir-nan-og 
again. It was a changed Ireland he came to ; nettles 
grew where the courts of Finn had been thronged, 
and there were little stone houses built through the 
open country, and a clanging of bells from the towers 
of them. And the people were small, feeble folk : 
Ossian saw six of them trying to raise a bag of sand, 
and he stooped from the saddle, with one hand he 
caught the bag, and he swung it forward disdain- 
fully, showing his contempt for the degenerate race ; 


but with the strain his saddle girth broke, and, over- 
reached as he was, he fell and touched earth. In a 
moment his splendour was gone, the pains and in- 
firmities of age seized on him and he stood up, 
tottering with palsied limbs, bleared eyes, and " spittle 
on beard never dry." Then they brought the 
stranger to Patrick, who laboured to convert 

In these later colloquies Patrick is telling of the 
strength and severity of God, and of the torment 
that awaits the unbeliever. And Ossian in answer is 
telling of the greatness and generosity of the Fenians, 
and contrasting it with the mean, fettered life of the 

" You tell me your God is strong. If your God 
and my son Oscar were at wrestle on Knockaulin, 
and if I saw Oscar down, it is then I would say 
your God was a strong man, O Patrick ! " 

That is one famous answer. But a few stanzas may 
be borrowed from the half grotesque " Lamentation 
of Oisin after the Fenians," again in Mr. S. H. 
O'Grady's rendering: 

" Alas ! in place of the noise of hounds 
Sweet and cheerful every morning, 
The drowsy noise of bells, a music not sweet to me, 
And the doleful sound of a joyless clergy. 

" Alas ! in place of battles and sore combat, 
In which I was wont to stand and rejoice ; 
The crosier of Patrick being carried, 
And his chaunting clerics quarrelling. 


" Alas ! in place of banquets and of feasts, 
Which I used habitually to enjoy ; 
Long fasting from my meat, 
Which the wind would waft beyond the walls. 

" Alas ! they tell me continually, 
That it is not plenty of bread that God loves ; 
But much prayer and fasting, 
Two pursuits which I never have followed. 

" Alas ! were I as I was 
At the time of the terrors of Knockanaur, 
If I got not obedience and attendance 
I would scatter thy wretched clerics. 

" Alas ! were I in strength and in vigour 
As I was exultingly at the harbour of Fionntragh, 
I should not be deafened in the church of the bells, 
And I would put a stop to their droning." 

But the old man is too far changed from the hero 
who fought in the great Fenian battles of Knockan- 
aur and Ventry ; he can only wail and cry out for 
food and drink, and the Fenians cannot hear him for 
all his crying. Patrick soothes him with food, and 
in the joy of relief after famine he is reconciled to 
God. Is this written by a monk deliberately showing 
a warrior's degradation, or by one who hates clerics, 
showing the monkish tyranny ? It has a bitter flavour 
in any case, and the bitterness deepens. Ossian still 
pleads for the pleasures of memory ; it " seems long 
and is a great woe to him * not to speak of the ways 
of Fionn of the deeds.' Patrick answers : 

" Speak not of Fionn nor of the Fenians, 
Or the Son of God will be angry with thee for it : 
He would never let thee into his fort, 
And he would not send thee the bread of each day." 


We are a long way from primitive art m the half- 
humorous pathos of Ossian's reply : 

"Were I to speak of Fionn and the Fenians 
Between us two, O Patrick the new, 
But only not to speak loud, 
He would never hear us mentioning him." 

Bitterest of all is the end of the poem. Ossian 
feels death approaching, and Patrick causes one of his 
clerics to strike the old warrior who cries out fiercely 
at the insult. " Thou rememberest that thou art the 
mighty Oisin " ; says Patrick, sternly : " I fear thy 
speech has earned God's anger." Ossian dutifully re- 
pents and forgives his smiter ; all he asks is to be taken 
into God's fort, " and let Fionn and the Fenians be 
with me without delay." " That is another sin," 
answers Patrick. And (in this version) * Oisin of the 
Fenians who had been but foolish,' forswears his 
company among the clouds of death, and prays to 
God for forgiveness of his loyalty to friendship. 

A poem like this may be construed in more ways 
than one. But this much is literally certain : that 
the bards who wrote these Ossianic poems, in which 
the case for freedom against restraint, for spear and 
hound against bell and crozier, for the men of war 
against the men of genuflections, is stated with such 
gusto, wrote in times when they saw Ireland wrecked 
and ruined by armed strangers, and needing sorely 
some new Fenian battalions to protect her. And it 
is fair, I think, to say that just this piquancy of 
contrast between pagan and Christian is the deter- 


mining circumstance which accounts for the replace- 
ment of the early and more epic sagas by these 
Ossianic or Fenian tales. A gulf clearly separated 
the Red Branch warriors from Irish Christianity in 
the popular mind ; and no less clearly, the popular 
notion of history made Fionn and his companions 
real persons in Ireland at a period not very far 
removed from the downfall of paganism. Links 
were forged to connect back the historic period which 
begins at Patrick's coming with what lay nearest in 
the half-legendary past ; and thus the latest of the 
great heathen fighting-men became a kind of symbol 
for what Ireland was in the days when she was not the 
attacked but the attacker. And this symbol was set 
out against an equally dramatic personification of the 
ages when Ireland became one hive of monastic 
learning, the home of the arts of peace, and the 
easy spoil of every Danish marauder. 

This is a far cry from Benbulben. And, in truth, 
although the Sligo mountain is so closely linked with 
one of the finest Fenian stories, it has to be said 
that the cycle belongs to Munster more than to 
Connaught ; and generally that Ossianic legends are 
of southern Ireland, as the Red Branch tales are of 
the northern province. Still, there is no better place 
in Ireland to study legendary history than about 
Sligo ; and if some of my friends can be trusted, 
those who have the gift of vision can see, even in 
these later days, strange shapes not of our element 
walking on Benbulben and Knocknarea. 


After this long excursion into legend and the litera- 
ture of pure legend, I shall make little attempt to 
gather up the definitely historic associations which 
cluster about Sligo town. Red Hugh came there in 
June 1 595, when the stir that he had set on foot began 
to spread even in Connaught, which was so securely 
held. Here in Sligo, one of the Burkes, serving as a 
mercenary under George Oge Bingham, suddenly cut 
off Bingham's head and surrendered the town to 
O'Donnell, who garrisoned it, since it afforded just 
the starting-point that he desired for the conquest of 
Connaught. The English did not leave him Jong 
in undisturbed possession. In the autumn of that 
year, after he had raided and spoiled the country 
down to Tuam, Sir Richard Bingham, the Gov- 
ernor of Connaught, set out in pursuit. But the 
Cinel Conaill under Hugh Roe were the hardest 
people in Ireland to get near, and though the English 
rode hard from Ballymote, the raiders slipped 
between them and the sea, past the bridges of 
Collooney, Ballysadare and Sligo. Bingham followed 
as far as Sligo, and then halted, encamping in the 
monastery "as it was the custom of the English to 
dwell in the holy churches." A party of O'Donnell's 
scouts mounted on fine fleet horses came back to the 
north bank, " saw the English up and down through 
the town," and were themselves seen. Bingham's 
nephew, Captain Martin, mounted and set off in 
pursuit, and O'Donnell's scouts returning told how 
they had only escaped by the fleetness of their 



horses. Red Hugh scented such an occasion as he 
delighted in, and having arranged an ambuscade 
about a mile out of Sligo, sent out another party of 
horse to the north bank. As soon as they had come 
there, " Captain Martin jumped on his horse on seeing 
them as quick as a hound would go in pursuit of its 
favourite game " (says Lugaidh O'Clery, father of 
one of the Four Masters, in his contemporary Life 
of Hugh Roe). Martin's troopers followed, and 
O'Donnell's men retreated, " proceeding at first to 
hold quietly the bridlebits in the mouth of the swift, 
galloping horses," in order to decoy the pursuers on. 
But very soon it was necessary for them " to spur 
and whip the horses at once and together," so hot 
was the pursuit, and one man, Phelim Reagh Mac 
Devitt, was ill-mounted, and finding himself in 
danger, was obliged to neglect his orders and turn on 
Captain Martin, who led the chase. 

" The aforesaid Phelim had a sharp piercing spear to shoot when 
he wished. He put his finger to the string, and he drew the 
javelin boldly, and the shot of the dart struck Captain Martin with 
such force that it passed through the border of the foreign armour 
at the hollow of the armpit, and it pierced his heart in his breast, 
as his misdeeds deserved, for he who was wounded there was a 
merciless rogue, and his hatred of the Irish was very great." 

This checked pursuit and the ambush failed 
rousing O'Donnell's fury, which only subsided when a 
party of the scouts " came into the presence of 
their prince, though it was very hard for them 
on account of his great anger," and testified on 


behalf of Mac Devitt. Bingham on his part was 
no less angry : 

" He ordered his army to go to the monastery and pull down 
and destroy the roodscreen and the cells of the servants of God, 
and to bring him enough of the firmly-bound, well-jointed boards, 
and of the strong smooth-hewn beams to make a machine for 
pulling down walls." 

The engines thus constructed were advanced to the 
Castle, and assault was given, but O'Donnell's garrison 
drove them off and Bingham retired in discomfiture 
to Roscommon. O'Donnell did not risk another 
siege. He pulled down the castle and " did not leave 
a stone of it on a stone," and did the same by thir- 
teen more castles of Connaught. Thus when Sligo 
figures again in the record of his incessant marchings, 
it is only as a stage on his usual route from Donegal 
into Connaught across Saimer (the Erne), and Duff 
and Drowes and Sligeach. 

Ballymote, some ten miles south of Sligo, near 
Grainne's portion, Keshcorran, became in reality 
O'Donnell's headquarters after he captured it : and 
from here in the north of Connaught he waged war 
with unbroken success (sharply punishing the 
O'Briens of Thomond for their alliance with England) 
until Docwra, landing at Derry from the sea, made 
an assault in his rear, and the traitor Niall Garbh, 
Hugh's near kinsman, struck at the very home of 
Cinel Conaill, Donegal itself. 

In the Williamite wars Sligo had a chequered 


history. The surrounding country, being rich, was 
thickly settled with Protestant gentry, and at the 
first rumour of fighting these organised themselves^ 
seized the town and repaired the forts. But presently 
orders from the traitor Lundy reached Lord Kingston 
who commanded in Sligo, bidding him evacuate the 
town and march to join the other forces in Derry. 
Kingston marched out and the town was at once 
occupied by the Irish. The Sligo contingent added 
itself to the Protestant force of Enniskilleners so 
brilliantly commanded by Lloyd, and took part in 
the famous victory of Newtown Butler. Sarsfield, 
who commanded for James in the West with such 
raw levies as he could muster, fell back from his post 
at Ballyshannon on Sligo, the most important town 
in North Connaught. But he had under him a 
demoralised and nerveless force, who, at the mere 
rumour of the Enniskilleners' approach, fled in 
tumult, leaving their ordnance and stores to the 
enemy. Thus Sligo was again King William's before 
Schomberg landed in Ireland. 

Yet in the meantime Sarsfield was heartening a 
beaten side and raised altogether 2,000 horse in 
Connaught. The Enniskilleners, confident from re- 
peated triumphs, laid a plan to cross the Shannon 
at Jamestown, join a detachment of Lloyd's garrison 
from Sligo, and, by a sudden movement, to capture 
Galway. Sarsfield learnt the plan, and with his 
Connaught levies and five regiments borrowed 
from the army which lay with James about Dundalk 


observing Schomberg, he marched to the attack. 
About three miles outside Sligo a battle was fought 
in which Sarsfield, according to a letter in the State 
Papers (dated November 3oth, 1689), killed 800 foot 
and 125 horse. The town was defended against him 
for four days by Saint. Sau vent, a Huguenot refugee, 
who, for lack of provisions, surrendered on good 
terms. Sligo, thus recaptured after two months, 
was held now steadily for King James the key to 
all the country west of the Shannon. It is one of 
the two signal successes which crowned Sarsfield's 
glorious but unlucky name. 

When Sarsfield departed to join the main army he 
left the charge of Sligo to a very singular old veteran. 
Sir Teigue O'Regan had held Charlemont in Tyrone 
very desperately against Schomberg and only marched 
out (with all the honours of war) when his men were 
chewing raw hide. He himself, hunchbacked, 
slovenly, ill-booted, ill-cravated, rode out on an old 
spavined charger, whose kicking and squealing inter- 
rupted the amenities between himself and Schomberg. 
In Sligo he was ready to surrender after the passage 
of the Shannon was forced at Athlone ; but the day 
of Aughrim followed and, cut off in the north of 
Connaught without means of communicating with 
those from whom he held his command, Sir Teigue 
determined to fight to the last. Nevertheless, forces 
were too many for him, and at last this tough old 
veteran of whom Colonel Wood-Martin, the his- 
torian of Sligo, is a warm panegyrist submitted to 


Mitchelburne after a correspondence honourable to 
both sides. 

The spirit of the men who joined the Enniskilleners 
has survived. Sligo is still a strong centre of 
Protestantism in the West, and the Protestant gentry 
have there maintained themselves much better than in 
the rest of Connaught. The hard-drinking, hard 
riding, gambling squire and squireen have been less 
common here, and, signs by, the families of Crom- 
wellian plantation are there still, many of them, in 
prosperity. Altogether Sligo is more like Ulster 
than Connaught, and its ties are with the northern 
province. Yet the religious bigotry which disgraces 
Ulster is not felt here : and it is pleasant to set down 
for a last impression that at Collooney a few miles 
out of the town a couple of progressive Protestant 
landlords have created one of the most active groups 
of co-operative industries to be found in all Ireland. 




As you go eastward out of the brisk, prosperous 
little town of Ballymena, along the road which leads 
to Glenarm and the sea Sruth na Maoile, the narrow 
sea between Antrim glens and the glens of Scotland 
two landmarks characterise the country. The valley 
of the Braid runs east and west between lines of hill, 
steep but not rocky ; and the eye, following their 
unbroken slopes and curves, is led on rather than 
arrested. But full in front of you, as you travel the 
road by the foot of the northern barrier, rises a low 
summit, insignificant enough in size, yet noted for 
a certain sharpness of contour which is strongly 
emphasised by a gable of craggy ruin. This peak of 
rock and masonry is Skerry. Over against it, on the 
southern wall of the valley, a huge mass of dark 


stone, barely covered with vegetation, lies transversely 
across the undulating ridge, dominating the whole 
scene, as a higher mountain of more regular outline 
might fail to do. The high-raised bluff is Slemish ; 
and it tells a story of ages before human habitation ; 
for it shows to any understanding mind the very neck 
of a volcano, where the outpouring of basaltic slag, 
solidifying, raised on the crust of earth this monstrous 
dump, as it were, of debris. Thus seen, a puzzle 
will be made clear ; for, although you travel towards 
a not-distant sea, the Braid river flows to meet you, 
bound inland for the great central basin of Lough 
Neagh. At the seaward end of this valley is no pass 
or waterway ; the ridge which closes your view is solid 
and continuous, a barrier heaved up in the great con- 
vulsion when lava spouted from Slemish ; and, in later 
ages of the world, this dividing of the watersheds 
made a division of the kingdoms. To the seaward 
was Dalriada, the country of the glens ; to the land- 
ward, stretching away south till it also reached the 
sea towards Belfast and Strangford, was Dalaradia. 
And about the year 420 of our era, the chief of 
northern Dalaradia was one Miliuc, or Milcho, whose 
dun lay in the valley under Slemish perhaps 
entrenched upon the craggy top of Skerry itself. To 
that dun raiders of his own, or of some other barbaric 
chieftain, brought a captive from civilised Roman 
Britain, snatched out of the villa where his father, 
Calpurnius the deacon, had rank and title and duties 
as a decurio or knight in the all-embracing organisa- 


tion which the world then knew as Rome. Succat 
was the captive's name ; but later he was called 
Patricius, and for the sake of Patrick the valley of the 
Braid deserves a pilgrimage as well as any spot in our 

Of all national saints there is none, I think, who 
retains so vivid an existence in memory as the patron 
saint of Ireland none whose name carries with it so 
much of reality, or means so much to his own people. 
St. George and St. Andrew are mere rhetorical figures, 
and even in that use seldom brought forward, perhaps, 
it will be said, because England and Scotland are 
Protestant countries. But to Protestants in Ireland St. 
Patrick is only less real than King William ; and they 
are constantly instructed to revere him as founder of 
a national Church which had nothing to do with the 
Pope of Rome. Yet, after all, these retrospective 
polemics have never touched the national imagination. 
St. Patrick more than any figure stands for what is 
common between Irishman and Irishman beyond party 
and creed. More than Niall of the Nine Hostages, 
more even than Brian of the Tribute, he is the com- 
mon father of us all, although a foreigner and a Roman. 
The stoutest champion, baptised in Boyne water, who 
curses the Pope and swears by the tough Dutchman of 
secular canonisation ("glorious, pious, and immortal"), 
will probably resent no less than his Catholic neigh- 
bour any attempt to turn Patrick into a pious 
invention, a mere mythical personage. Yet the 
attempt has been made. But now that a great 


scholar, bred and trained in Ireland, but standing aloof 
from all creeds and parties, has written his Life of 
Patrick, it is pleasant and comforting to know that 
the most scientific criticism warrants us in regarding 
Patrick as a historic figure whose achievement was no 
less momentous and no less personal than it has been 
represented by tradition. 

The special value of Professor Bury's study is that it 
shows us in a new aspect the nature of that transfor- 
mation which the saint inaugurated, and, in great 
measure, accomplished placing it in relation to other 
vast movements and rearrangements of the European 
destiny. After reading him, we realise that Patrick 
came in days when Rome was still, in theory at least, 
one universal commonwealth, embracing the whole 
civilised world. He came, a Roman, to preach the 
religion of Rome ; and the chiefs of Ireland, to whom 
he addressed himself, could no more separate the 
spiritual aspect of his teaching from its association 
with the secular majesty of the Empire than can some 
potentate in Africa to-day forget that the religion of 
the meek missionary who labours for his conversion is 
the religion accepted by those who command the 
business of the world. 

In the opening of the fifth century Rome had 
ceased to be a dread to the outer gentiles who were 
tearing already at the flanks of Empire Irish wolves 
among them as fierce as any ; Patrick had felt their 
teeth in his flesh, he was part of their quarry. Yet, 
even while they plundered, they could not but per- 


ceive their own deficiency ; and when they gave wel- 
come and encouragement to the missionary, they 
thought certainly of more than things spiritual ; 
they opened the gates for an influence that taught 
how to order, to settle, to govern, pacisque imponere 
morem. Laoghaire, the High King (as Professor Bury 
points out, in amplifying the apt quotation which I 
have borrowed from him), never became a Christian, 
but he gave Patrick liberty and privileges ; and in 
his reign Irish Jaw was codified and embodied in the 
Senchus M6r. Thus a great step was taken from 
that Homeric stage of society which we find depicted 
in the legends and annals of pre-Christian Ireland, 
towards the later development in which the country 
became the centre and refuge for all learned and 
peaceable pursuits. 

This is the aspect of Patrick's work on which stress 
is laid by the editor of Gibbon. But the historian is 
too good a biographer to suggest that this aspect was 
present to Patrick's mind. No apostle was ever more 
simple, more single-purposed, more of a Gospel 
Christian, than the writer of the Confession ; and we 
have good right to rejoice that criticism can accept 
absolutely the genuineness of this document, as well 
as of the Epistle to Coroticus. For if these things 
are genuine, we have far more than ascertained know- 
ledge concerning the work of a saint who established 
Christianity in this island : we have the man himself. 
There could not be a fuller revelation of personality 
than is given by the Confession, an autobiography 


most vivid, most real, convincing in its very clumsi- 
ness. Here, in the evening of life, the saint set down 
a narrative of his spiritual career ; and if one thing is 
plainer than another, it is that he wrote in no 
atmosphere of adulation, but as one justifying him- 
self, roughly, confusedly, and at times even angrily. 
A voice is speaking to us through fourteen centuries, 
but as human, as charged and coloured with person- 
ality, as any accent of to-day, pathetic even by its 
rusticity, its imperfect mastery of the Roman tongue. 
Yet Patrick's Latin is no dead or alien language ; it 
is vernacular, full of sap and life, the utterance of a 
rough, half-educated man, using a language which he 
had employed constantly in the commerce of life and 
thought, but always rustically, without grace or 
grammar. Even in a translation, though regularised, 
it keeps its character ; and if Irish men and women 
were rationally educated, this document would not be 
left to the study of scholars, but would be familiar to 
us all. It brings whoever can read it into living 
contact with the saint ; it shows him clear, stripped 
of that atmosphere of marvels which succeeding 
generations were only too quick to weave around 
him. Even the earliest of the Lives, those which 
Muirchu and Tirechan wrote perhaps less than two 
hundred years after his death, obscure him strangely 
to our view. But the Confession, though it should 
be the centre of all that is learnt and taught concern- 
ing Patrick, is by no means sufficing. Purely a 
narrative of his spiritual career, it fills in few historic 


details ; and above all, it leaves hungry that desire, 
so characteristic of the Irish, for fixing events to their 
setting. Only two names of places are given in it ; 
and of these, one that of his home in Britain can- 
not be identified with certainty, while the other 
occasions a controversy of another kind, and has been 
made the ground for attacking a most venerable 
tradition. If Professor Bury is right, we have no call 
to go on pilgrimage to the valley of the Braid. 

Yet, probably, the first thing which anyone learns 
about St. Patrick is that he was a slave, herding on 
the hill-slopes of Slemish. Now for part of this we 
have his own authority, and also for the more signi- 
ficant fact that the district where he herded beasts 
under the cold sky was the place of his spiritual 
enlightenment, the school of his inner man. Here 
is a translation of the passages which tell the story. 
I take it from the other Life of the Saint, by Arch- 
bishop Healy, which appeared, by an odd coincidence, 
almost simultaneously with Professor Bury's, to offer 
a contrast and a complement. 

" I, Patrick, a sinner, am the most rustic and the meanest of all 
the faithful, and contemptible in the esteem of very many. I had 
for father Calpurnius, a deacon, a son of the presbyter Potitus, who 
belonged to the town of Bannaventa in Britain. For he had a 
villa near it where I was made captive. I was then barely sixteen 
years old. I knew not the true God ; and I was led to Ireland in 
captivity with many thousand persons, according to our deserts, for 
we turned away from God and kept not His commandments, and 
were not obedient to our priests who used to admonish us about our 
salvation. And the Lord brought upon us the indignation of his 
wrath, and scattered us amongst many nations, even to the ends of 



the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is beheld 
among strangers. And there the Lord opened the understanding 
of my unbelief, so that at length I might recall to mind my sins, 
and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my 
humility and took pity on my youth and ignorance, and kept watch 
over me before I knew Him, and before I had discretion or could 
distinguish between good and evil, and protected me and consoled 
me as a father his son." 

Then the narrative passes into praise and adoration, 
breaking off again to explain its writer's intention 

"Yet, though in many things I am imperfect, I wish my 
brethren and kinsfolk to know what manner of man 1 am, so that 
they may be able to perceive the purpose of my soul." 

A Scriptural justification for such 'confession' 
passes into an apology. Men may blame me, 
Patrick says, for writing " with my want of know- 
ledge and slower tongue " in a speech and style 
" changed into the tongue of the stranger, " that is, 
in the Latin of one who had come to think in Irish. 
" Yet," the saint cries, passing into a superb elo- 

" It is written ' The stammering tongues shall quickly learn to 
speak peace ' ; how much rather should we covet to do this, who 
are ourselves the epistle of Christ for salvation unto the ends of the 
earth ? " 

So, by long windings, in which a very passion of 
prophecy mingles strangely with defiance of those 
" lordly rhetoricians," who, by their training, " have 
drunk in both laws and sacred letters in equal 
perfection," and have " from infancy never changed 
their language," he returns again to his narrative : 


" Now, after I came to Ireland, daily I herded flocks ; and 
often during the day I prayed : love of God and His fear in- 
creased more and more, and faith grew, and the spirit was stirred 
up, so that in a single day I said as many as a hundred prayers, 
and in the night about as many, and that I remained even in the 
woods and on the mountain. Before the dawn I used to be 
aroused to prayer in snow, in frost, in rain, and I felt no hardship ; 
nor was there any slackness in me, such as now I perceive, because 
then the spirit was fervent within me. And then, on a certain 
night, I heard in my sleep a voice saying : Thou fastest well ; 
thou art soon to go to thy fatherland.' And again, after a little 
time I heard the Divine voice saying to me : ' Lo, thy ship is 
ready.' And it was not near by, but distant perchance two 
hundred miles. And I had never been there, nor had I any 
acquaintance among the persons there. And thereafter I betook 
myself to flight, and left the man with whom I had been six years : 
and I came in the virtue of God who directed my path for good ; 
and I had no alarm till I came to that ship." 

In all this, it will be seen, there is not a word of 
Slemish. But in the Lives, from Muirchu down- 
ward, we are told, without question or argument, 
that Patrick herded flocks on a mountain called 
" Mis" (Sliabh Mis), and that his master was Miliuc, 
king of northern Dalaradia. This unanimous voice 
of tradition has never before been questioned by any- 
one who accepted the general historical character of 
the story ; and it is disconcerting to find Professor 
Bury proposing to rob the Braid Valley of its chief 
glory, and on the strength of one single ambiguous 

The matter is worth explaining, for a great deal 
hangs by it, no less than the whole value of unwritten 
Irish tradition. Nobody disparages the written testi- 


mony of a contemporary ; and for the events of St. 
Patrick's life, there is no appeal against St. Patrick 
himself. Archbishop Healy, for instance a scholar 
trained in the school which accepts the miraculous 
is no less clear than Professor Bury that the Confession 
is a touchstone by which to test tradition. There 
are miracles related of Patrick's boyhood ; but Patrick 
himself tells us that before his capture he was in 
spiritual darkness. 

" I did not believe in the living God, nor had I from my 
infancy ; but I remained in death and unbelief until I was greatly 
chastened and humbled in truth by hunger and nakedness, and that, 
too, daily." 

And therefore, on the strength of this, the Arch- 
bishop not brusquely but firmly brushes aside the 
legends of miracle wrought by this as yet very unmi- 
raculous boy. But that is a very different thing from 
dismissing a whole body of tradition because it 
conflicts with the interpretation of a single passage. 

This passage occurs after the Confession has told 
how Patrick and his companions on the voyage from 
Ireland were miraculously preserved. We find the 
saint (after several intervening years of which he tells 
us nothing, though the Lives fill up the gap) back in 
Britain with his parents, who " earnestly besought " 
him that, " after so many tribulations " he should 
never go away from them. And indeed it seems he 
was loth to go, but a call came. 

** Now there it was I saw, in a vision of the night, a man 
coming as if from Ireland, whose name was Victoricus, with 


numberless letters. And he gave one of them to me ; and I read 
the beginning of the letter, purporting to be * The voice of the 
Irish ' ; and whilst I was reading out the beginning of the letter, I 
thought that at that moment I heard the voices of those who dwelt 
beside the wood of Focluth which is by the western sea ; and thus 
they cried, as if with one mouth, ' We beseech thee, holy youth, to 
come and walk once more amongst us.' 

" And I was greatly touched in heart and could read no more, 
and so I awoke. Thanks be to God that after very many years 
the Lord granted to them according to their earnest cry." 

Now, there is no doubt whatever about the wood 
of Focluth. It was in Tirawley near Killala, and 
the name survives, though doubtless in restricted 
significance. It is a far cry from Slemish to this 
corner of northern Connaught, and yet the passage, 
as Archbishop Healy (like Professor Bury) translates 
it, seems to imply that Patrick had been there before 
his escape. Archbishop Healy, indeed, conjectures 
that Killala was the spot where he took ship ; and it 
is about the right distance two hundred miles from 
Slemish. A western line of flight was unlikely, and 
no less unlikely is it that a vessel in the fifth century 
would be sailing from Connaught to Britain. But 
if I had to choose, I would far rather accept 
Dr. Healy's interpretation than dismiss with Pro- 
fessor Bury the whole story of Slemish, and 
assert that north Mayo was the scene of Patrick's 

A much simpler solution is found if we believe that 
when St. Patrick wrote, ut venias et adhuc ambulas, he 
attached no particular meaning to the word adhuc, on 


which Professor Bury bases his whole destructive 
theory. St. Patrick, good man, was prone to take 
liberties with the language (as his ambulas shows) ; 
and he strewed his style (after the fashion of rustic 
talkers and writers) with particles and conjunctions of 
which no very literal interpretation can be given, and 
should translate, 'come, yea and sojourn among us.' 
This may be a bold method of dismissing the diffi- 
culty. But at least we all of us in Ulster are entitled, 
before an honour is transferred to Connaught, to ask, 
Why did the chroniclers falsify facts in this matter ? 
How did it come to pass that, two hundred years 
after the death of the greatest among Irish saints, men 
asserted that his captive years were spent in Dalaradia, 
when the truth should have put them in Tirawley ? 
If I know my country, the scholars of Tirawley 
would have raised an outcry against this injustice, 
whose echoes would come down the centuries as 
clearly as those of the quarrel between Columba and 
the rival scribe over a question of copyright. 

Should it be asked, Why then was the " voice of 
Ireland " specially associated with the wood of 
Focluth? an answer is forthcoming. That remote 
region of the west may, in those days of uncertain 
geography, have been taken actually for the remotest 
of all. And the Confession makes it clear that Patrick 
conceived of himself on his apostolic mission as 
issuing from the Roman pale and from familiar civil- 
isation, to preach and evangelise the uttermost 
Hesperides, ultimum terr<e, the limit of the world 


in his own words, ttbi nemo ultra erat^ " where beyond 
there was no man." 

It is not a light matter, nor one merely of sentimental 
importance, though the thought of Patrick is so 
closely intertwined with this definite locality, these 
hill-slopes of Slemish, that if we attempted to root up 
those associations and fix them elsewhere, the story 
would inevitably lose much of its sentimental power. 
In the traditional accounts truth has admittedly been 
contaminated with much of mere fancy, and we should 
feel the solid basis of fact crumbling if, in a detail 
itself wholly credible, the chroniclers were proved to 
have misled us wantonly. But more than this is at 
stake. In our efforts to recreate the story of past 
ages in Ireland, positive historical record must be 
supplemented largely by oral tradition, and especially 
by what of it is preserved in place-names ; and, 
taking this as a test case, we should be obliged to 
discredit the old annalists even when their story was 
supported by this collateral evidence to be gathered 
on the spot. 

Let us consider, as pilgrims to the valley of the 
Braid, what light our own investigation can throw on 
this matter how far the testimony of our senses will 
support the chroniclers. 

The worst of it is that the valley of the Braid is not 
quite as the rest of Ireland. In many regions and 
places tradition survives with such over-mastering 
force and so backed by relics of the past as to carry 
conviction to any intelligent mind. But here in 


county Antrim the work of extirpation and dispos- 
session was so thoroughly carried out under Elizabeth, 
under Cromwell, and again even under George III. in 
1796 when Catholic cabins were served with the 
notices directing their occupants to " hell or Con- 
naught " that few descendants of the original Irish 
are left on the soil. About Ballymena, I am told, 
until quite recently a man of the settlers would correct 
whoever called him Irish. He was Scotch and so 
styled himself Scotch in blood and in sympathy (an 
explicit declaration which has much to commend it). 
It is not surprising, then, that tradition of the saint 
and his work among the Irish survives but feebly on 
the spot. Yet, even so, it survives. 

The Lives tell us, although the Confession does not, 
how Patrick on his missionary expedition landed first 
at some port in south-east Ireland probably 
Wicklow but put to sea again, coasting up past 
Bray Head and Howth, till he touched at Inish 
Patrick (the little island off Skerries). There he and 
his men victualled and watered, and proceeded on 
again past the estuaries of Leinster, till the galley 
rounded Slieve Uonard, and stood in through the 
narrows of Strangford Lough. At Saul, which still 
keeps its name, he met Dichu, the chief who became 
his first convert ; and close by he founded Downpatrick, 
first of his churches, and last of his abodes on earth. 
Archbishop Healy's Catholic piety rejoices to declare 
that in this corner of Protestant Ulster once Magh 
Innis, now the barony of . Lecale Catholicism has 


never lost its hold ; the stranger has never rooted out 
the descendants of the first whom Patrick evangelised. 
Here, at all events, the saint sojourned for a time 
perhaps for the whole winter of 432-3. But at last 
he set out to march due north, aiming his steps for 
Slemish and his old master's home. A straight 
course would bring him round the end of Belfast 
Lough and across the ford near where the city 
stands ; and thence from the top of Cave Hill, above 
Belfast, the eye can trace his natural route to where 
tradition, at least, marks his arrival on the high ridge, 
with the whole valley of the Braid spread under his 

To reach this point as Patrick reached it, you 
must go out from Ballymena by the way leading 
south-east (to Larne) for about six miles ; then turn 
sharp to the left, up a road over the hill, so steep and 
so direct that it probably follows a course trodden 
from immemorial ages. Within a mile or so you 
begin to see over the back of the ridge which has 
separated you from the Braid valley ; to your right 
suddenly the bluff of Slemish rises abruptly from the 
all but level moor, blocking all view of the sea. 
But to your left, some ten or twelve miles distant, is 
the broad, shining face of Lough Neagh ; and, by the 
time you reach a schoolhouse by the wayside, every 
nook in the valley below and before you is visible to 
good sight. The schoolhouse is more than a mere 
landmark, for its name, the National School of Cross, 
preserves the evidence we are in search of. A stile 


leading into the field to the left brings you on to a 
faintly traceable track across the grass once, beyond 
doubt, a pilgrims' way and you will reach a starved 
and stunted plantation of trees, fenced with a stone 
wall, which crowns the Hill of Cross. Here once 
stood a commemorative cross, at which, says Muirchu, 
the prayers of the faithful earn the most fortunate 
result. The cross is gone, no trace remains of it, but 
the name perpetuates a memory of the belief that it 
once stood where Patrick paused and trembled to 
witness his portentous triumph. 

For, according to the story, Miliuc was not only 
ruler but Druid and magician ; and the coming of 
Patrick was foreknown to him. Even without Druid 
magic, news might well have travelled the forty miles 
from Slieve Donard to Slemish, telling how the 
fugitive slave had returned with a retinue, bringing a 
strange message ; and how Dichu, the ruler of Magh 
Innis, had submitted to his teaching, and given a 
house for the new worship : and perhaps a fear came 
over Miliuc that the power which had prevailed in 
Magh Innis would prevail also in Dalaradia, and he 
himself become the subject of his bond slave. At all 
events the story tells hew he entered into his house, 
and, shutting himself up with all his treasures, 
fired the wooden building ; and as Patrick crested 
the hill, and looked out once more over the rocky 
pasturage where he had driven his master's herds, 
the flames of Miliuc's dun were the first thing he 


" For the space of two hours or three, he stood in a trance 
uttering no word, but sighing, groaning, and weeping ; and at last 
finding utterance, I know not, God knows,' he said, ' whether the 
man, this king who gave himself to the fire lest he should believe at 
the end of his life, and be the servant of Eternal God, I know 
not, God knows, no son of his shall sit as king on the seat of 
kingdom from generation to generation, and his seed shall be slaves 
to everlasting. 

" Then, praying and fortifying himself with the sign of the 
cross, he turned back to the place whence he had come, following 
the same trail." 

So Muirchu tells the story. To-day no living 
memory speaks of pilgrimages there, such as his 
words imply. Nor is Miliuc's dun identified. 
Raths are plenty in the neighbourhood ; and one 
stands conspicuous enough on the left-hand side of 
the road to Skerry, which may date from a day as 
old as Patrick's. But tradition assigns no name to 
it ; and one would incline to guess that Skerry itself, 
so craggy, yet so sheltered, and so visible from the 
Hill of Cross, might be the spot. Yet, if so, the 
slave's triumph over his master was complete indeed ; 
the very memory of any former uses is blotted out, 
and tradition keeps only the fame of the saint, less 
piously perhaps than before, for the " pattern " or 
annual celebration in his honour has long been dis- 
continued ; but still pilgrims at least of curiosity 
are constant to the spot where Patrick received the 
angel's visit and built a church in commemoration. 

While you are going to Skerry from Ballymena 
the small peak, crowned by the craggy ruin, grows 
always distincter as you pass along a road lined with 

o 2 


prosperous cottages, every one trim with flowers, and 
many, when I saw them, wreathed with that most 
beautiful and capricious of all climbing plants, the 
scarlet tropasolum, which in the inclement north often 
grows a very weed. About five miles out, any way- 
side inquiry will guide you where a short field-path 
leads to Tobar na Suil, " the well of the eyes " once a 
place of pilgrimage, but now notable noway except 
for the beauty and translucency of its water, spring- 
ing over iridescent sand, a sight good for sore eyes, 
though miracles of healing be no longer wrought 
there. Beyond it a hilly road turns towards Skerry, 
maintained chiefly for the convenience of funerals ; 
but it is better to hold on and turn in by a cot- 
tage where a path goes straight up, rising steeply 
on the very brow through some natural scrub 
of sloe, hazel, wild-rose, and hawthorn lineal 
descendants doubtless of the brakes among which 
Patrick wandered as a herd. From here the place 
shows as a crag ; the basalt rock rises bare and sheer 
above you, though to no great height. On top is 
the ruined church of masonry, not very antique, 
probably the third or fourth edifice that has stood 
there. Its east end is strongly vaulted in with a low 
grass-covered roof that shelters the burying place of 
the O'Neill family : and near by, outside the enclos- 
ing wall, is a flag of stone on which the rough sem- 
blance of a footprint marks where the angel stood 
when he communed with Patrick. A hundred 
similar inventions could be cited in different parts 

vi SKERRY 197 

of Ireland ; down here in the valley of the Braid, 
Bally leckpatrick, 'the townland of Patrick's flagstone,' 
probably keeps an echo of some other crude fancy. 

But in the associations of Skerry reality is stronger 
than fable. As we look out from the little burying- 
ground we see indeed a changed country : lands 
chequered with tillage, criss-crossed with well-kept 
fences, while beyond them and the gleaming stretches 
of the Braid rises the blue smoke of Ballymena's 
factories. Yet there is little doubt that we look out 
over a country, changed indeed but not beyond recog- 
nition, which for six years was daily familiar to a 
great apostle ; little doubt that he also saw Lough 
Neagh lose its outline in the sun mist, and the blue 
line of Derry hills close the horizon beyond the plain 
country where the Bann flows northward. All this 
doubtless he saw when he saw only with the eye of 
the body and looked out angrily on the barbarous 
hills that imprisoned a free-born citizen of Rome. 
Later, all this perhaps grew even endeared to him as 
the place of his new birth, where the transformation 
that takes place in certain lives wrought itself in him, 
and he began to behold a new heaven and a new 
earth a new purpose in himself and in the world. 

The history of Slemish and its surroundings, apart 
from St. Patrick, is not momentous ; yet here also, 
as in all places, scrutiny would unearth some trace of 
each succeeding epoch in the history of Ireland. 
Primitive man strewed this region with more than 


a common share of stone axes, arrow-heads, and the 
like ; for Tibullia, a mountain, in the glens not far 
off, afforded a limitless supply of one particular 
basaltic formation that lent itself specially to these 
uses ; and I slept in Ballymena under the same roof 
with, perhaps, the greatest private collection of stone 
implements in Great Britain. 

Raths are to be seen both from the Glenarm road 
and the Larne road ; and a finer one is in the grounds 
of Gallgorm Castle, a mile out of the town near the 
Maine Water. About it are some traces of building 
not a common feature ; and a strong tradition 
reports that a McQuillan of the Route (the modern 
name for Dalriada), being expelled by the Mac- 
Donnells from his home in the Glens, settled 
himself here and added fortification of masonry to 
the old earthwork. There is no doubt that McQuillan 
had dealings with the first builders of Gallgorm, 
which is a fine example of the plantation castles with 
its bawns and its flanking towers. Sir Faithful 
Fortescue built it under Elizabeth, and McQuillan 
was able to show that the land on which it was built 
had been granted twice over, and granted first to him. 
His rights were soon bought out, and he and his 
melted off that country like snow in spring. Not so 
the occupants of Gallgorm. The castle has changed 
hands many times, but it has always been a strong- 
hold of the strangers of that conquest so unlike 
St. Patrick's. Patrick brought to Ireland the culture 
of Rome but not her yoke ; the Fortescues and other 

vi GALLGORM 199 

heroes of the Elizabethan conquest brought the rule 
of England but not her freedom. They were, in 
theory at least, the avowed missionaries of a religion ; 
their mission was to root out falsehood and idolatry, 
to establish the worship of true virtue and Gloriana 
see Edmund Spenser passim. Yet, although they have 
maintained their conquest, their religion has gained 
few adherents from no lack of devotion or ability in 
its ministers. Learned Ussher, saintly Berkeley, and 
all the other great Protestant divines have been ham- 
pered, not helped, by the armed might of England at 
their backs. Protestantism in Ireland has never had a 
chance to be considered on its merits as a religion ; 
it was too closely identified with a policy of confisca- 
tion. Yet the purely alien domination, of which 
Gallgorm was one of the fortresses, has been durable ; 
it has lasted three hundred years, it may last another 
fifty. And when it is done with, perhaps the influence 
of St. Patrick which stands in Ireland, I think, neither 
for Protestantism nor Catholicism, but for Christianity, 
may renew the triumphs of these earlier centuries 
when Ireland had the envy and not the compassion 
of Europe. 

Thoughts of this kind are bound to force them- 
selves in Ballymena, for there the rivalry of religions 
is obtrusive. Belfast itself is not more aggressive, and 
the Orange drum beats constantly. Historically, the 
town suggests ugly memories : a regiment of Catho- 
lics who surrendered there in 1641 was cut down after 
quarter given not without scandal to the officer of 


Sir John Clotworthy's regiment, who chronicles the 
occurrence : a handful of loyalists who held the 
court-house in 1798 were massacred by the mob, who 
finally overpowdered their resistance. Yet there is a 
more profitable aspect of history to dwell on here. 
The valley of the Braid, thoroughly cultivated, is 
good land employing plenty of labour ; it is held by 
small but prosperous farmers, many of whom still pay 
rent to a landlord, though some are owners by now, 
clearing off annually their purchase by instalments to 
the State. But in all these farms there is a tradition 
of tenancy on reasonable terms. The tenant's right 
to a saleable interest in the farm which he works has 
dated here from the eighteenth century or earlier ; 
and the result stands out agreeably in well-tilled fields 
and trim cottages. The rest of Ireland has a good 
deal to learn from these Ulstermen, and much of it 
is typified by the flowers about the houses. Bally- 
mena itself, with its strong industrial life, its woollen 
mills growing up to meet a shrinkage in the linen 
trade, offers other aspects of the same lesson which 
would take the student far enough from St. Patrick, 
yet which can only be studied with profit to Ireland 
by one who remembers the common bond between 
all Irishmen so well symbolised in the name of their 
common saint. 

And, as it chances, the only other historic associa- 
tion beside that of Patrick's presence which links 
itself with Slemish recalls Protestant Irishmen who 
risked and sacrificed all for the general liberation of 


their country at a time when they themselves were 
still a privileged class. The Society of United Irish- 
men originated in the north, and in all the rebellion 
of '98, not many fiercer engagements were fought 
than the battle of Antrim. After the defeat of the 
insurgents a body of them fell back on Slemish, 
and for several days camped there unmolested. A 
well is shown which one of their leaders discovered by 
accident. He enlarged the opening with his sword, 
and to this day it keeps his name, " M'Cracken's 
Well." And it is not only nationalists in the north 
who still hold in reverence the memory of that 
handsome and spirited young rebel Henry Joy 
M'Cracken. Perhaps he may have his statue yet, 
in Belfast, or Ballymena, or Antrim. To-day the well 
on Slemish is his only monument and no bad one 



THERE is no lack of genuine poets among the 
later instructed generation, acquainted with the truly 
Celtic note ; but none of them, writing about Ireland, 
can win anything like the audience which listened to 
Thomas Moore. And, at least from one point of 
view, that is a pity ; for the tourist goes to Tara 
with his head full of " Tara's walls " and " Tara's 
halls," and to a certainty incurs disappointment. 

There is no place in Ireland where the existence of 
great historic associations is so generally recognised 
(thanks to Moore) as at Tara ; there is no place so 
disappointing to those who come to it without some 
degree of knowledge because, I think, the literature 
which moulded their preconceived ideas of the place 
consisted of sentiment not based on knowledge. 
This is curious enough, for Moore was essentially a 
bookish man, and if he could have read about Tara, 
and all that Tara stood for, he would have done so. 
But that was impossible, from the standpoint of his 
age ; since in the days when Moore was writing the 


earlier Melodies no one regarded it as possible that 
Irish annals could throw any light on the past of 

During Moore's lifetime that point of view changed 
considerably ; but, living in England, he was remote 
from the influence of Irish study, and his attitude is, 
I think, fairly typified by a story which I heard the 
other day from an old Gaelic scholar who is (what all 
Gaelic scholars are not) enthusiastic for the fame of 
Thomas Moore. Moore, he said, in one of his last 
visits to Ireland (say in 1841), met O'Curry, and saw 
him at work on some old manuscripts for his 
Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. " How 
old are these records?" asked Moore : O'Curry said, 
"Perhaps a thousand years old, perhaps more." 
" And you can read them ? " said Moore ; O'Curry 
answered, of course, that he could. Moore asked 
no more questions, but he was silent for a con- 
siderable time, pacing up and down the room till at 
last he broke out, O'Curry said (my friend had the 
story direct), with extraordinary vehemence into an 
exclamation : " Good God ! what a fool I was to 
undertake to write the history of Ireland ! " 

Nowadays all the material which Moore's ex- 
clamation recognised as essential to the understanding 
of Ireland's past is more or less readily available. 
My object in this chapter is to put together, from 
Irish sources, some account of the sort of civilisation 
which Patrick found in existence, when, after his 
winter of waiting in Magh Innis, and his brief 


excursion to Slemish, he set out in good earnest on his 
missionary enterprise, addressing himself to the very 
seat of power, in a society which was organised, not 
from the bottom upwards, as is the modern 
democratic plan, but from the top, that is from the 
king downwards, through the clans, and septs, and 
families. All our accounts of Tara were written in 
Christian times, but they all agree that the days of 
Tara's chief glory was under pagan rulers, and that 
it had already passed its zenith when Patrick first 
preached there. 

More than this, the accounts were written in an 
Ireland where the Milesians predominated, and Tara 
was certainly the first centre of Milesian power. Thus 
a Milesian bias must be allowed for in the traditions 
which represent the place as an immemorial seat of 
sovereignty. But whether the Lia Fail was brought 
there by the Firbolgs, by the Tuatha de Danann, or 
by the Milesians and legend variously ascribes its 
erection to each of these races ; whether there is any 
clear historical fact behind these legends of successive 
invasions or no ; there is no question that Tara was 
the chief centre of power in Ireland from a period 
beyond the limit of ascertained history down to the 
sixth century of our era. 

Before one attempts any historical comment a 
rough description must be given of what is actually 
to be seen. Readers who want a map will find one 
in Mr. Cooke's indispensable " Murray." 

Tara, then, is about twenty-four miles from Dublin, 


and rail brings you to within four English miles of it 
at Kilmessan. (It is not much further distant from 
Navan, on the other side.) Driving from Kilmessan, 
you soon come into a country of low hills, the 
southern confine of the Boyne valley, and you ap- 
proach Tara itself without any sense of nearing a 
marked eminence. In the little village (which has 
been a village for many hundreds of years) is a 
meeting place of roads ; but the best landmark is 
the church and churchyard. Roughly speaking, the 
top of the hill consists of two long fields, per- 
manent pasture like nearly all that country. Grazing 
land at Tara fetches about five pounds the Irish acre ; 
the old kings did not pick the worst of Ireland for 
their demesne. These two fields run east and west, 
with a fall each way, so that the highest point is 
about the bank which divides them part of which 
is the old bank of Rath na Riogh, the Rath of the 
Kings. Along these two fields is a slope to the north- 
ward, mainly covered with a plantation, and in that 
plantation are two earthworks. Along the south 
side, which slopes less sharply, is another lea-field, 
where bullocks drink of the well Nemnach ; and out 
of a corner of this field at the east the churchyard 
is cut. 

Thus, entering by the gate at the east end near the 
village, you have the churchyard to your left, and to 
your right is the ground plan of the banqueting hall. 
Straight before you, as you advance, is the demolished 
Rath na Seanaidh. Beyond that is the dividing 


ditch, which you cross by a stile, near the churchyard 
wall : and you are at once among a whole system of 
mounds. The whole field, some six acres, is enclosed 
by the ring of Rath na Riogh, which can easily be 
traced everywhere except on the south, where it has 
been superseded by a big raised ditch I may explain 
to English readers that ditch in Ireland means any 

St. Patrick. 

kind of fence not of wire or wood. Quite near the 
stile is a little mound, the Mound of the Hostages : 
beyond that, crowned by a very indifferent statue of 
St. Patrick and an ancient pillar stone, is a singular 
double rath in the form of a figure 8, which is called 
the Forradh or Place of Assembly. And away to the 
west, outside Rath na Riogh, is Rath Laoghaire, easily 


In the plantation on the north are two raths, and a 
third is in the main field just bordering the plantation. 
I have only to add that the precinct of Tara in 
ancient times extended east of the road from which 
you enter, and that in this end of it were several 
monuments, now effaced by cultivation. 

At present the earthworks which remain are safe 
enough ; no man thinks of putting a spade into the 
soil of Meath. Yet it was not always so ; and even here 
on the hill can be seen such fences as are to be traced 
all through that fertile plain : long rows of thorn 
trees which may afford a shade for grazing cattle, but 
have no other purpose, since what was once the en- 
closure for growing crops is now gapped and almost 
traversable for wheels. The craft of husbandry 
is dead in these districts ; an ancient way of life is 
gone, but the ground is still cumbered with its 
skeleton. The Meath farmer buys and sells, shuts 
gates and opens them. These operations he can 
conduct unaided, and consequently human beings 
are scarce in Meath : the richest regions in Ireland 
are lonelier than the mountains of Donegal, and you 
may drive on the roads for miles without meeting 
any Christian. 

Yet it seems likely that a change is coming, and 
that the stern pressure of economic necessity may 
drive those who occupy this soil to till it. If that 
be so, the raths of the kings will be in danger ; 
and while there is yet time this national monument 
should be secured for the nation. Ireland is not so 


poor that she cannot afford the price of these two 
fields, whose " marvels " were so minutely described 
by Irish scholars, probably more than a thousand 
years ago, that to-day we can identify with certainty 
at least the site of what they were describing. 

A poem in the Dindsenchus declares that the place 
had five names successively, and that Temair was the 
fifth of them. Temair, it should be explained, is 
the nominative case from which comes the genitive 
Temrach, roughly represented in sound by the 
English Tara the " m " being slurred. Under the 
Tuatha de Danann, according to this authority, the 
place was called Cathair Crofhind, and Petrie has 
pointed out that in the enclosure of the great Rath 
na Riogh are still parts of an ancient " cathair " or 
stone enclosure. 'Temair was etymologised as Tea- 
mur, the fort of Tea, a Milesian princess who traced 
out her own precinct with staff and brooch pin. But 
so early as the ninth century Cormac MacCullinan, 
the learned King of Cashel, made light of this 
derivation ; though his own interpretation deducing 
the word from 0e&>pe'u (conspcid], as if Temair 
meant " the conspicuous " had no great value except 
as showing that a ruler of Munster in those early 
days could be something of a Grecian. 

This Dindsenchus, or collection of tracts and 
poems relating to Irish topography, was put to- 
gether in the twelfth century, from documents already 
ancient ; and the poem which I have referred to 
may have been written before the time of Cormac 


of Cashel. But at all events we can say that the 
collection as a whole represents what was written 
down and believed concerning Tara in days before 
the earliest Norman invasion, while the ancient tra- 
ditional order of scholars and bards still existed 
undisturbed in Ireland. 

The tracts in the Dindsenchus agree, then, that 
the zenith of Tara's fame was reached when Cormac 
MacArt, grandson of Conn the Hundred Fighter, 
bore rule there ; and they paint in vigorous phrase 
the organised splendour of his court and the com- 
pleteness of his sovereignty. Cormac's reign is given 
as lasting down to A.D. 266 ; and it is worth while 
to note that these descriptions make no mention 
of the glories of Finn MacCumhaill, though if the 
Fianna had a historic existence at all, it was in the 
days of Cormac. 

To illustrate the social order thus described, I 
begin with an extract from one of the poems, which 
gives some idea of what was meant by kingship. 1 
The Psalter of Tara, it will be seen, was a kind of 
Domesday Book for the High King's dominion. 

" Cormac who gained fifty fights 
Disseminated the Psalter of Tara : 
In this Psalter there is 
All the best we have of history. 

1 Full texts of this poem and the others in the Dindsenchus 
have been published by my brother, Mr. Edward Gwynn, whose 
translation I use. 



" In it is set down on every hand 
What is the right of every king of a province, 
What is the right of the king of Temair in the east 
From the king of every songful province. 

" The correlation, the synchronising of every man, 
Of each king one with another together, 
The limits of every province marked by a stone-rick 
From the foot to the full barony. 

" Baronies thirty in number it finds 
In the baronies of each province : 
In each province of them are 
Seven noble score of chief fortresses. 

" Cormac knew the number, being king ; 
He made the circuit of Erin thrice ; 
He brought away a hostage for every walled town 
And showed them in Temair. 

"Duma na Giall (purity of palms) 
Is called from the hostages Cormac brought : 
To Cormac was revealed in their house 
Every marvel that is in Temair." 

This " Mound of the Hostages " is easily recog- 
nised, rising well-defined inside the enclosure of Rath 
na Riogh in a line between the statue-crowned 
Forradh and the church. " Purity of palms " the 
translator explains, as a condensed way of saying that 
"hostages denote peace in contrast to the blood- 
stained hands of war." The mound was apparently 
a point of muster where the king * showed ' his 
hostages in Temair. 

The poem goes on to detail the marvels of Temair, 
but I shall give here only what concerns Cormac : 

vii CORMAC'S MILL 211 

and first comes a passage of astonishing interest for 
the social history of Ireland. 

" Temair, whence Temair Breg is named, 
Rampart of Tea wife of the son of Miled, 
Nemnach is east of it, a stream through the glen 
On which Cormac set the first mill. 

" Ciarnait, handmaid or upright Cormac, 
Used to feed from her quern many hundreds ; 
Ten measures a day she had to grind, 
It was no task for an idler. 

But the King made her his concubine and " pre- 
sently she was unable for heavy grinding." 

" Thereupon the grandson of Conn took pity on her ; 
He brought a mill-wright over the wide sea. 
The first mill of Cormac MacArt 
Was a help to Ciarnait." 

Petrie, in an interesting note, tells us that the 
water-mill was first invented by King Mithridates in 
Cappadocia, about 70 B.C. ; that its use spread 
rapidly to Italy, and that the invention would natu- 
rally be carried with the Roman civilisation to 
Scotland whence, according to another passage in 
Irish tradition, Cormac got his mill-wright. All this 
holds together with the entry of the annalists, which 
notes how Cormac MacArt was absent for three years 
with his fleet out of Ireland and not less with the 
tradition which makes him a first bringer-in of some 
hint of Christian belief. Thus independent pieces of 
testimony, put in their places, lock into one arch 
which can support our faith in the historic existence 

p 2 


of a King of Tara who was not merely a fighter, but 
a civiliser, a true ruler. The story of the mill, the 
story of Rosnaree, and of the old King's revolt from 
mere Paganism, all help us to accept Cormac as the 
author of the Teagasc Riogh concerning which 
we must speak later. But let not a significant fact 
be forgotten. O'Donovan, working on the ordnance 
survey in the thirties of last century, not only found 
a mill in operation on the Nith, but found the miller 
in full possession of the tradition concerning Cormac's 
institution ; and more than that, found him claiming 
that his forbears before him had been millers on that 
spot since the day when kings ruled in Tara. 

To-day, the well, Nemnach (or " Crystalline "), 
is easily discoverable on a slope below the churchyard 
and to the west of it. 'Tea mur, the burial mound 
ascribed to Tea, lay west of it, outside Rath na Riogh, 
but I could not trace it. From the well there is still 
a considerable overflow, and a stream course is trace- 
able in the meadow below. But the country is drier 
than it was, and the Nith now begins its course a 
good way from Tara. 

Having quoted so far from the passages which 
suggest Cormac as the ruler and civiliser, I proceed 
to illustrate the etiquette of his kingly establishment 
which is stated in terms of diet. From " The 
House of Temair, around which is the rath," was 
given to each man his due, and the poet specifies 
their shares. 

To King and to chief of the poets, to sage and 


farmer, the thighs and chine steaks (notice the rank- 
ing of professions) : 

To doctor and major-domo, steward and butler, 
and to stout smith, the heads of the beasts : 

To engraver, famed architect, shield maker, keen 
soldier, a cup of drink " this was the special right 
of their hands : " 

To "jester, chess player, sprawling buffoon, piper, 
cheating juggler," the shanks : 

To musician, mason, artificer, the shins : 

To cup-bearers and foot-servants, the broken meats 
to consume. 

And so on, through a long category. 

Most of this poem is purely topographical, though 
it ends with a note of lament for the destruction of 
what was so mighty. 

" Because of the sorrow of the people of God in its house 
He gave not protection to Temair." 

But the next poem opens with a fine lyrical 
passage, enlarging the theme of lament contrasted 
with eulogy. 

" Perished is every law concerning high fortune, 
Crumbled to clay is every ordinance ; 
Temair, though she be desolate to-day, 
Once on a time was the habitation of heroes. 

" There was no exhaustion of her many-sided towers 
Where was the assembly of storied troops ; 
Many were the bands whose home was 
The green-soiled grassy keep. 


" It was a stronghold of famous men and sages, 
A castle like a trunk with warrior scions, 
A ridge conspicuous to view 
In the time of Cormac, grandson of Conn. 

" When Cormac was among the famous, 
Bright shone the fame of his career, 
No keep like Temair could be found, 
She was the secret of the road of life." 

For "secret" in the last line I should be tempted 
to read " purpose," which also renders the Irish 
run : if so, the bard would convey at once the 
notion that "all roads lead to Tara," with the other 
famous panegyric as who should say " see Tara and 

Practically all the rest of this poem is directed to 
celebrating the monument which can be identified 
with most certainty to-day the great banqueting 
hall, 'Teach Midhchuarta, " House of the Mead- 
Court." For in truth, as the poet says : 

" The great house with thousands of soldiers 
Was not obscure to posterity, 

The shining fort with distinctions of the illustrious ; 
Seven hundred feet was its measure. 

Therein amid radiant hospitality 
Were doors twice seven in number." 

As you enter the field from the road, turn to the 
right, and about a hundred yards off you will reach 
what seems a long trench between lines of embank- 
ment, gapped at regular intervals ; its lie is roughly 


along the crest of the hill, which falls towards the 
north. If you measure it, you will find the length 
750 feet (so that the poet understated the dimen- 
sions). The gaps are the doorways and you may 
make the reckoning twelve or fourteen, it was am- 
biguous even when the old chroniclers wrote. But 
there is no mistaking the description of the prose 
account in the Dindsenchus, which speaks thus con- 
cerning 'T'each Midhchuarta. 

" The ruins of this house are situate thus : the lower part to the 
north and the higher part to the south ; and walls are raised about 
it to the east and to the west. The northern side of it is enclosed 
and small ; the lie of it is north and south. It is in the form of 
a long house with twelve doors upon it, or fourteen, seven to the 
west and seven to the east. It is said that here the Feis Tern rack 
was held which seems true : because as many men would fit in it as 
would form the choice part of the men of Ireland. And this was 
the great house of a thousand soldiers." 

The poet adds some detail that its height was six 
times five cubits and that the measure of the hearth 
was seven cubits. He adds also much colour and 
movement, with a hint of kingly ceremonial : 

" Goodly was the throng in this wise, 
The gold gleamed from their weapons ; 
Thrice fifty stately couches there were, 
And fifty men to each shining couch. 

" Nine times fifty beakers to choose from, 
This was the custom a plentiful choice for all 
Except what was carbuncle clear and strong 
All was gold and silver 


" Thrice fifty steaming cooks 
In attendance unceasingly 
With victuals, an abundant supply, 
On the jolly kings and chieftains. 

" Fifty men standing 
Guarded the sturdy wolf, 
As long as the king was drinking, 
That no trouble might visit him. 

"When Cormac was in Temair 
Beyond all high powers for his great might, 
A kingly equal to the Son of Art CEnfer, 
Was not to be found among the men of the world 

" Since Solomon was a-searching 
Who was better than all progenies together, 
What offspring that would match Cormac 
Hath the earth devoured, O God ? " 

I have omitted a good deal one verse stating 
Cormac's daily attendants at thirty hundred, and 
another putting the full tale of the household of 
Temair at " thirty thousand in all." Probably no 
one will stand over these figures : but the exagger- 
ation is not so wild as it may seem. There is even 
to-day a parallel for the state of King Cormac, unless 
accounts of the kingdom of Abyssinia be most mis- 
leading. Certainly, fifty years ago that country with 
its high king and its provincial kings, its strange 
mixture of civilisation and barbarism, its opulence 
and its poverty, offered very close affinities to 
what we read of ancient Ireland. Even to-day 
Menelik's capital is camp rather than city, and 
even to-day as many as twelve thousand vassals and 


retainers assemble at the king's feast in Addis 
Abeba banqueting in relays of three thousand under 
a vast wooden structure. Surely that is not unlike 
what was once seen in the 'Teach Midhchuarta. 

As for the gold and jewels, the statements 
seem incredible. Yet among the relics which have 
been found actually at Tara were two gold torques, 
of which the largest was five feet and a half in length. 
And one must remember that in the third and fourth 
centuries Irishmen were the spoilers not the quarry 
of western Europe. 

For the hundred and fifty couches (or, as it is 
put elsewhere, compartments) into which the hall 
was divided, one cannot take this statement literally. 
But no doubt as many men slept in the hall as could 
fit into it, and races in that stage of development 
pack close at night. Even now, how many Irish 
peasants would one cottage hold for a night or two ? 
And it must not be supposed for an instant that the 
poet meant to imply that this assembly was constant. 
He put the daily muster at three thousand probably 
a lavish figure ; yet there can be little doubt that a 
king of Ireland kept an army constantly about him. 
Moreover, we are told expressly that in Laoghaire's 
reign the Midhchuarta was Rath Laoghaire, at the 
further end of Tara hill, and that the house of 
Laoghaire was one-third of the extent of the house 
of Cormac. Cormac's prodigal state had proved too 
costly to be maintained. 

I have only to add that we possess two very singular 


documents plans showing the internal arrangement 
of Cormac's banqueting hall, of which one is found 
in the Book of Glendalough and another, more 
detailed, in the Yellow Book of Lecan. They picture 
a long narrow parallelogram, entered by a door at 
one end which leads into a wide space or common 
hall ; from this again a central passage runs the 
whole length of the floor, and in it are indicated 
three fires, a vat, a lamp, and a candelabrum. To 
right and left of this are shown long lines of com- 
partments presumably tables set transversely to the 
length of the hall more than forty of them. The 
king's seat is not indicated, but from one of the 
descriptions we learn that he had three-fourths of the 
hall before him ; that is to say, he sat in the middle, 
three-fourths of the way from the door. Both the 
written descriptions and the maps specify the portions 
of meat due to each class and table. Thus : 
Brehons (judges) ; a steak for them. Charioteers ; 
crooked bones for them. Huntsmen ; a pig's 
shoulder for them. Smiths ; a head for them. 

One distinction is specially notable. Ollave poets 
got a steak, but minor poets only crooked bones. 
However, the historian fares no better than the 
minor poet ; he was the journalist of that day. 

Petrie notes with justice that the maps are only 
attempts made by the old scribes to illustrate 
graphically what they knew from the bardic tradition, 
and also from the customs still prevalent when they 
wrote (in the thirteenth or fourteenth century) 


among the Irish kings and great lords. The smith's 
title to the head appears in special to have been long 
perpetuated both in Scotland and Ireland : Petrie says 
that in his time a smith would often have in his 
kitchen from fifty to a hundred heads pickled 
his perquisite whenever a farmer killed beef or 

Although it may be taken for certain that the 
tradition preserved in the Dindsenchus and elsewhere 
represents a historic reality, and that Cormac kept in 
Tara some such state as Menelik to-day presides over 
in Abyssinia ; yet the comparison of him to Solomon 
which recurs frequently in the Irish descriptive and 
historical literature suggests that these descriptions 
cannot be taken quite literally. Perhaps if the 
height of Solomon's temple had not been thirty cubits 
the height of the hall of Cormac would not have 
had this measure : perhaps the splendour of Cormac's 
beakers is due to the verse in Scripture which tells 
that " all King Solomon's drinking vessels were of 
gold." But it is fair to say that though we can only 
argue by analogies to show that Cormac's opulence 
and the prosperity of Ireland under him were prob- 
ably not excessively exaggerated, at least the Irish 
writers adduce a document to show that the wise King 
of Ireland might be justly compared with Solomon. 
The Teagasc Riogh is the counterpart to the Book 
of Proverbs. Any sceptically minded person may 
question whether Cormac wrote the Teagasc Riogh 
or whether Solomon wrote the Proverbs : but no one 


can question that each work was written by an 
author of exceptional wisdom. 

Here is a passage from this composition attributed 
to this king who ruled in Tara two and a half centuries 
after the life of Christ. The work is cast in the form 
of a dialogue between Cormac and his son Carbery, to 
whom the " Instruction of a Prince " is addressed. 
(I take my quotation from Douglas Hyde's 
Literary History of Ireland?) 

" ' O grandson of Conn' (Carbery asks), ' I would fain know 
how to conduct myself among the wise and among the foolish, 
among friends and among strangers, among the old and among the 

" ' Be not too knowing nor too simple ; be not proud, be not 
inactive, be not too humble nor yet haughty ; be not talkative but 
be not too silent ; be not timid neither be severe. For if thou 
shouldest appear too knowing, thou wouldst be satirised : if too 
simple, thou wouldst be imposed upon ; if too proud, thou wouldst 
be shunned ; if too humble, thy dignity would suffer ; if talkative, 
thou wouldst not be deemed learned ; if too severe, thy character 
would be defamed ; if too timid, thy rights would be encroached 
on.' " 

While the " Instruction to a Prince " contained 
Cormac's moral teaching and political wisdom, the 
Psalter of Tara was the register and record of facts, 
which should be appealed to in the meetings of the 
famous Feis Temrach. How old this triennial meet- 
ing was, cannot be asserted ; legend attributes its 
origin to the legendary Ollamh Fodhla. But Irish 
scholars appear to agree that the institution was 
regularised and confirmed by Cormac, and that under 


him it took its definite shape as an assembly of all 
the chief men of Ireland, meeting for purposes thus 
described by Archbishop Healy : 

" First to enact and promulgate what was afterwards called the 
CJ/>/-law, which was binding in all the territories and tribes of the 
kingdom, as distinguished from the urradhus or local law. 
Secondly, to test and sanction the annals of Erin. For this 
purpose each of the local Seannachies or Historians brought in a 
record of the notable events that took place in his own territory. 
These were publicly read to the assembly, and when duly 
authenticated were entered on the great record of the king of 
Tara, called afterwards, the < Saltair of Tara.' Thirdly, to 
register in the same great national record the genealogies of all the 
ruling chiefs, to assess the taxes, and settle all cases of disputed 
succession among the tribes of the kingdom." (Ireland's Ancient 
Schools and Scholars, p. 20.) 

This, no doubt, is an idealised description ; prob- 
ably the system was by no means so complete even 
in theory ; and, as Archbishop Healy admits, the 
working of it was no way perfect. The central 
monarchy lacked power ; and in any case the con- 
ception of law with a sanction did not exist among 
the Irish. A legal decision, whether at Tara or 
elsewhere, merely stated what the law was ; no 
machinery existed which automatically enforced the 
judge's pronouncement. Yet there is one exception. 
The Feis at Tara lasted five days, from the third day 
before Samhain (November ist) to the third day 
after ; and whoever was found guilty of brawling OF 
strife in the precinct within that time incurred death 
for his offence. 

After the days of Cormac it does not seem that the 


central power of Tara waned, though perhaps its court 
was less costly. The northern sovereignty of Emain 
Macha was destroyed about 320 A.D. by the three 
Collas, cousins of Muiredach, High King, and Ulster 
was cramped into a north-eastern corner. Crim- 
thann's successor, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who 
ruled from 379 to 405, conquered at home and con- 
quered abroad as no King of Ireland had done before 
him. Four of his sons settled in Meath, four in 
Ulster ; and this stock held the High Kingship as a 
lineal possession to the time of Brian Borumha, 
alternating the sovereignty (at least in theory) be- 
tween the northern and southern Hy Neill. Abroad, 
Niall plundered Britain and Gaul, parts of the 
Roman Empire ; and Claudian sings of the General 
Stilicho's bold resistance : 

" Totam cum Scotus lernen 
Movit et infesto spumavit remige Tethys." 

One thing which resulted from these raids, when Niall 
the Scot (need one say that Scotus is Latin for an Irish- 
man ?) set all lerne in motion, and the sea foamed 
with hostile oars,' was the capture of St. Patrick. 
Another was the death of Niall himself, slain (it is 
said, treacherously by his ally the King of Leinster) 
with an arrow shot across the Loire : or according 
to a more likely story, in the Ictian Sea, that is the 
English Channel, while invading Britain. His 
nephew Dathi, who succeeded him, fell even farther 
a-field, at the foot of the Alps, fighting as an ally of 


Rome, recruited by Aetius. But Dathi's palace was 
at Cruachan in Connaught, and thither his soldiers 
brought him, and buried him there in 428. Then 
Niall's son Loigare, Laegaire, or Laoghaire whose 
name in later Irish has been softened into Leary 
came to the sovereignty. Five years after his acces- 
sion, in the spring of 433, St. Patrick set out from 
Down and landed at the Boyne mouth, on his way 
to preach Christianity in the seat of Pagan supremacy. 
I have tried in my last chapter to abridge the 
admirable pages in which Professor Bury shows that 
Patrick came to an Ireland which certainly knew 
Christianity as the religion of the Roman world, 
just as outlying tribes to-day conceive of it as the 
belief of Europeans ; if indeed Christianity was not 
already installed in the south-eastern quarter of the 
island, remote from the influence of Tara. Accord- 
ing to tradition, the Druids, everywhere the fiercest 
resisters of foreign influence, were already on the 
alert, and had a prophecy, saying : 

" Bare-poll will come over the wild sea, 
His mantle hole-headed, his staff crook-headed, 
His altar in the east of his house, 
And all his people shall answer, 
Amen, amen." 

This, indeed, was probably not so much a prophecy 
as a versified account by some poet-Druid of a reli- 
gion which he had seen or heard of in Britain or 
Gaul. But according to the story, the Druids did 
not fail to prophesy when face to face with the 


first token of Patrick's coming ; and familiar though 
the story is, it must be told here. 

Patrick, leaving his ship somewhere in the Boyne 
estuary, under charge of his kinsman Lomman, 
pushed up along the river on foot, and on the night 
of Easter-eve he was camped with his following on 
top of the Hill of Slane, a low eminence indeed, yet 
rising above that flat country, and conspicuous from 
Tara. (Even on a misty day I easily saw its 
crowning shelter of trees, some ten miles to the east.) 
Here, according to primitive ceremonial, Patrick 
kindled and blessed the fire from which the Paschal 
candle should be lighted, and which should burn all 
night to usher the dawn of Easter. But at Tara also 
a great Druidic festival was in process of preparation, 
and an ordinance decreed that in this season no man 
should light a fire in Meath till the beacon blazed on 
Temair ; and so there was consternation when 
through the darkening twilight this flame was seen to 
flicker up. Laoghaire, at sight of it, consulted his 
counsellors. And the Druids answered : " Unless 
this fire be quenched to-night it will never be 
quenched, and he who kindles it will seduce your 
people and be the master of us all ! " Then the 
High King, thinking to take quick order with this 
revolt, commanded nine chariots to be harnessed, and 
with two of his chief Druids set out by the road 
leading northwards to the ford at Slane. But as he 
approached, the Druids counselled him not to go to 
where the fire was kindled, lest he might unwittingly 


QO homage, but rather to send for the kindler of it. 
And they admonished all that no one should rise up 
before the stranger when he came, since that would 
be to own allegiance. 

Then Patrick came into the assembly among the 
chariots reciting a verse of Scripture : " Some in 
chariots and some in horses, but we in the name of 
the Lord our God." And at his aspect Ere, the son 
of Dego, could not refrain, but rose up to do him 
reverence, and Patrick blessed him and he believed. 
Somewhere on the wooded bank near the parish 
church of Slane, men show to-day ruins of the 
ancient oratory which is known as St. Erc's 
Hermitage. But Ere, who was a student of law at 
Tara, served for many years with Patrick as his 
Brehon, judging cases, before he was allowed to settle 
himself at Slane and remain daily immersed up to 
the armpits in Boyne from morning to evening so 
preparing for heaven. 

But on that Easter-eve Ere was alone in his readi- 
ness, and when Patrick began to explain his mission, 
Lochra, one of the Druids, spoke evil of Christianity. 
Thereupon Patrick prayed a strong prayer, and the 
Druid was lifted into the air, and flung down so that 
his brains ran out. Then the King ordered his men 
to seize Patrick, but the saint, crying out : " Let 
God arise, and let His enemies be scattered," called 
down a dark cloud and a panic, so that all fled in 

Laoghaire went back to Tara defeated, but he sent 



messages bidding Patrick come to him next day, and 
laid ambushes on the road. Yet the saint blessed his 
people and changed them into deer, and thus dis- 
guised they passed their enemies and came into Tara 
on the morning of Easter-day. It was then, legend 
says, that Patrick composed the " Deer's Cry," a hymn 
which is better known as "The Breastplate of Patrick," 
yet not so well known but that I shall copy here the 
best received translation of it 


" I bind to myself to-day 

The strong power of an invocation of the Trinity, 
The faith of the Trinity in Unity, 
The Creator of the elements. 


" I bind to myself to-day 

The power of the Incarnation of Christ with that of Hi, 

The power of the Crucifixion, with that of His Burial, 

The power of the Resurrection with the Ascension, 

The power of the Coming to the sentence of Judgment- 
" I bind to myself to-day 

The power of the love of Seraphim, 

In the obedience of Angels, 

(In the service of Archangels), 

In the hope of Resurrection unto reward, 

In the prayers of the noble Fathers, 

In the predictions of the Prophets, 

In the preaching of Apostles, 

In the faith of Confessors, 

In the purity of holy Virgins, 

In the acts of Righteous men. 



" I bind to myself to-day 
The power of Heaven, 
The light of the Sun, 
The whiteness of Snow, 
The force of Fire, 
The flashing of Lightning, 
The swiftness of Wind, 
The depth of the Sea, 
The stability of the Earth, 
The hardness of Rocks. 


" I bind to myself to-day 
The power of God to guide me, 
The might of God to uphold me, 
The wisdom of God to teach me, 
The eye of God to watch over me, 
The ear of God to hear me, 
The word of God to give me speech, 
The hand of God to protect me, 
The way of God to prevent me, 
The shield of God to shelter me, 
The host of God to defend me, 
Against the snares of demons, 
Against the temptations of vices, 
Against the lusts of nature, 
Against every man who meditates injury to me. 
Whether far or near, 
With few or with many. 


" I have set around me all these powers 
Against every hostile savage power, 
Directed against my body and my soul, 
Against the incantations of false prophets, 
Against the black laws of heathenism, 

Q 2 


Against the false laws of heresy, 

Against the deceits of idolatry, 

Against the spells of women and smiths and druids, 

Against all knowledge which blinds the soul of man. 


" Christ protect me to-day 
Against poison, against burning, 
Against drowning, against wound, 
That I may receive abundant reward. 


" Christ with me, Christ before me, 
Christ behind me, Christ within me, 
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ at my right, Christ at my left, 
Christ in the fort, 
Christ in the chariot-seat, 
Christ in the poop. 


" Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me, 
Christ in every eye that sees me, 
Christ in every ear that hears me. 


" I bind to myself to-day 

The strong power of an invocation of the Trinity, 
The faith of the Trinity in Unity, 
The Creator of the elements. 


" Salvation is of the Lord, 
Salvation is of the Lord, 
Salvation is of Christ, 
May thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us." 


Whether this be authentic or not, there can be little 
doubt but that it authentically represents the spirit 
of missionary Christianity in Ireland. Patrick came 
certainly, not so much disbelieving in the gods whom 
the Druids worshipped as believing them to be 
demons, not denying the Druid power to work spells 
but denouncing it as unholy and claiming for himself 
a greater power. At Tara he wrought portents 
against the Druids just as Moses defeated Pharaoh's 
magicians. One marvel must be told since the scene 
of it is identified. Patrick challenged the Druid, 
Lucetmael, to enter a hut with Benoit, or Benignus, 
the saint's favourite pupil. One half of the hut was 
built of green wood and one half of dry ; Benoit was 
put in the dry half, Lucetmael in the green. Patrick's 
robe was put on the Druid, the Druid's on Benignus ; 
and the hut was set on fire in presence of the 
assembly. The green wood burnt, and nothing was 
left in it but Patrick's robe, which came out un- 
touched : the dry wood took no hurt, but the 
magician's robe was consumed from off the boy's 
shoulders. By such miracles Patrick made himself 

The Dindsenchus fixes the place of this marvel. 

" The ruins of the house which was burned over Benoit, the boy 
of Patrick, and Lucad Mael, the druid of Laoghaire, are a short 
distance to the south-east of Cros Adamnain, that is at the side of 
the Rath (na Riogh) to the north." 

This would place the site in the present churchyard. 
Perhaps Benignus is more authentically commemcH 


rated by the round tower and ruin of Kilbannon, a 
few miles east of Tuam, where Patrick established 
this favourite disciple. And at all events, of the 
house at Tara, no more trace is left than remained of 
Lucet the Bald when the fire was done with him. 
But Laoghaire's rath is plain to view, outermost of 
the monuments, a grassy ring on the extreme limit of 
the hill. Kenneth O'Hartigan writes : 

" There remains south of the Rath of the kings 
The Rath of Loegaire and his keep, 
And his grave on the floor of his keep ; 
The righteous one of the Lord overcame him." 

Yet in truth Patrick never overcame the stiff old 
Pagan, so far as concerned Laoghaire's individual self. 
He won from him toleration for the new religion : 
Professor Bury thinks even that Laoghaire welcomed 
the prospect of his help in writing -down and codify- 
ing the existing laws of Ireland as was done under 
Laoghaire in the Senchus Mor or "Great Relation." 

That is at least an interesting conjecture. It is 
certain that Patrick did much to diffuse the art of 
writing, if he did not actually introduce it. Over 
and over again we read in the Lives, " Scripsil abge- 
tarium" that is, he wrote out an alphabet for the use 
of some place where he established a settlement. 
And it is possible that Laoghaire saw how this new 
power could be used to facilitate good government 
by fixing records unshakably. But Laoghaire him- 
self resolutely stood out against the new faith, while 
granting protection to its missionaries. " For," said 


he, " Niall my father did not permit me to believe, 
but enjoined that I should be buried in the top of 
Temrach like men standing up in war." So it is in 
the Latin of Tirechan. And an Irish account copied 
into the twelfth century Book of the Dun Cow tells 
how Laoghaire 

" was interred with his arms of valour in the south-east of the 
external rampart of' the royal Rath Laoghaire, with his face turned 
southwards upon the Lagenians, as it were fighting with them, for 
he was the enemy of the Lagenians in his lifetime." 

The story of that lifelong feud with the men of 
Leinster connects itself with another historic site at 
Tara, and the rise of a famous institution. The 
Borumha, a tribute exacted from the Kings of 
Leinster by the High King, is said to have been first 
imposed as a penalty for the misdeed of a king, Achy, 
who obtained in marriage a daughter of Tuathal the 
Legitimate : then, tiring of her, pretended she was 
dead and obtained her sister also. Nothing was 
known till the two women met by accident, and, 
says the story, both died of grief and shame. 
Tuathal in vengeance marched an army in, and laid 
the tribute on Leinster for payment every second 

Nearer to recorded history is the misdeed of 
Dunking, another Lagenian king, who, during 
Cormac MacArt's absence on a military expedition, 
attacked Tara and killed thirty princesses with their 
attendant women on the northern slope, called Claen- 
ferta (now covered with a plantation), under the 


Rath of Grainne. In revenge, Cormac slew twelve 
princes of Leinster, and imposed the tribute with 
addition. In Laoghaire's lifetime, war arose three 
times over this payment, and the Leinstermen 
having conquered, bound him by sun and moon, 
water and air, day and night, sea and land, to demand 
it no more. But he broke his oath, and going out 
again on an expedition, perished on the plain of 
Liffey, " killed by the sun and wind and by the other 
guarantees, for no one dared to dishonour them at 
that time " ; and so was brought home to his burial, 
according to the rites of a Paganism of which he was 
the last royal representative. 

Laoghaire's tolerance must surely have been more 
than merely passive, for Christianity rooted itself all 
about his throne. The story of Erc's involuntary 
uprising is repeated of a greater personage in that 
court. When St. Patrick, traversing mysteriously 
the closed doors, appeared in the banqueting hall 
that is in Rath Laoghaire Dubhthach, the chief 
poet, rose to salute him. A charming story tells 
how Dubhthach after his conversion wished to become 
a monk and devote himself entirely to religion. But 
Fiacc, his foremost pupil, interceded with the master. 
The loss to poetry, he said, would be too great, and 
he offered himself in Dubhthach's stead, and so 
became the first bishop of Sletty. 

Dubhthach, like all the poets of that day, was not 
merely a verse-maker, but an authority on every 
kind of wisdom, and his name stands first of three 


trained scholars who, with three kings and three 
Christian bishops, drew up the Senchus Mor. 

A convert of higher rank to our modern notions 
(and yet according to Irish estimates less noble than 
the head of the poets) was Conall, the brother of 
Laoghaire, whose dun lay an hour's ride from Tara at 
a ford of the Blackwater. Some say he gave Patrick 
the site of his own house but that was probably inside 
the great rath which lies in the wood across the road 
from the church of Donaghpatrick, a good deal 
obscured by trees, yet still distinguishable for a most 
powerful encampment. At all events, where the 
modern church which Mr. Thomson has drawn 
stands so prettily above the water in that richly 
wooded country, Patrick built one of his earliest 
churches, whose great size it was sixty feet long 
earned it the title of Domnach Mor, that is Dominica 

A little beyond Donaghpatrick is the circular 
enclosure which once was Tailteann, the place of 
great annual gatherings. I found a curious survival 
of knowledge in ignorance, for my driver pointed 
me to a cross-roads where he said there used to be 
a fair with as many as forty public-houses open. 
Teltown, to give the place its modern name, will 
always be associated with the memory of the late 
Mr. James McCann, who poured out money and 
energy in the endeavour to create a true industrial 
centre at Navan freeing the canal, opening 
factories, establishing an intelligent paper, and doing 


many other good works which his sons carry on. Near 

by, too, is Colonel Everard's famous tobacco farm, 
a focus of fruitful ideas. 

But so much has to be said about Tara that even 
the most superficial topographer cannot pass on to 
other interests : let us therefore get back to Tara. 


Grainne's Rath, in the fir plantation, recalls the 
Ossianic story, since at Tara the great feast was 
held for Finn's wedding with the daughter of King 
Cormac, and from Tara Grainne, breaking troth 
with Finn, fled in company of Diarmuid. But 
of this the Dindsenchus knows nothing. Ossianic 
legend had not taken shape by the twelfth century. 
To-day, of course, we have the dregs of a tradition 
which knows the name of Finn MacCool and very 
little else of the legendary past ; and any local 
authority will show you Finn MacCool's chair an 
invention of the last fifty years, for Petrie says nothing 
of it. 

The narrow, little used road which runs past 
the end of Cormac's banquet-hall is as ancient as 
Tara. It was one of the five roads leading to the 
High King's seat, and bore the name of Slighe Asail, 
the Asses' Way. This north-east slope of the hill 
was the quarter where chariots were stabled, Fan na 
gCarbad, the Chariot Slope ; and from a little way 
down the Slighe Asail there diverged the Slighe Mor 
or Great Road, which struck through Meath till it hit 
the track along the Eskir ridge which led across the 
Bog of Allen into Connaught. The main road by 
which the hamlet of to-day is approached from 
Navan follows probably for some distance the 
Slighe Midluachra leading to the fords of Boyne, and 
up through Conaille Muirthemne to the north-east 
of Ireland. In the angle between it and the Slighe 
Asail were several of the ancient monuments, now 


levelled by the plough ; for originally Cormac's hall 
was midway on the ridge. One of these monuments 
was a mound which bore the name of Conchobar, 
while another was ascribed to his mother Nessa I 
have noted how the Milesians loved to associate 
themselves with the glories of the race that ruled in 
Emain. But a grimmer memorial of the Red Branch 
and its warriors lay farther still to the north-east. 
Here is the story of it. When Cuchulain, mastered 
at last by numbers and by magic, was slain and 
beheaded in the plain of Muirthemne near Dundalk, 
word was sent to Conall Cearnach, the second 
champion of Ulster. Conall came to Tara to seek 
word of the slaying, and what he met was two young 
chieftains, Mai and Miodra, playing hurley on the 
green sward ; and the ball that they drove with their 
camans was a human head. Conall asked why this 
game was played, and they answered that Cuchulain 
had been slain by the men of Ireland, and that this 
was his head. " Your heads with his," said Conall, 
and he struck the heads off them. Their graves were 
shown and the place where the head was buried, and 
by it the burying-place of the hero's shield, a little 
north-east of Rath Conchobair but all these monu- 
ments are gone. 

There is no need here to dwell on the other 
wonders of Tara which were duly identified by Petrie. 
But the end of the ancient seat of sovereignty has 
to be told. Six kings after Laoghaire ruled there, 
and the last of the six, Diarmaid MacFergus, though 

vii THE END OF TARA 237 

a Christian, had constant trouble with the saints. 
First Columcille brought before him, here in Tara, 
the famous case of copyright which I have stated in 
my chapter on Armagh. The king decided against 
Columba, who vowed vengeance ; but the proximate 
cause of dispute was a violation of the law which for- 
bade strife during the Feis of Tara. In A.D. 560, the 
last Feis of all was in progress when a son of the King 
of Connaught quarrelled over a game of hurley with a 
son of King Diarmaid's chief steward and killed him. 
The manslayer fled to Columbkille, whose grievance 
against the king was known, and Columba wished to 
protect him, but the law was upheld and he was put 
to death. Then the king (knowing what kind of 
saint Columba was) wished to arrest the cleric, but 
Columba was too quick for him, and escaping, stirred 
up his kinsmen the northern Hy Neill, and in 561 
Diarmaid met the King of Connaught and his allies 
the O'Neills and O'Donnells at Cuildremhne between 
Sligo and DrumclifF, and was beaten. 

That was his first misfortune. The second was 
worse. Diarmaid who, to do him justice, seems to 
have been a much more reasonable man than the 
saints was endeavouring to enforce the central power, 
and sent out a messenger with orders to enter all forts 
of the princes, and, where a spear carried transversely 
would not enter, to break down the wall on each side. 
But at last in Hy Many, between the Shannon and 
Lough Corrib, the messenger came to the rath of King 
Guaire, and the people of the house at his bidding 


enlarged the opening. Presently, however, Guaire re- 
turned, and in a rage at. the weakening of his fortress 
killed the messenger : whereupon, in fear of conse- 
quences, he fled to his mother's brother St. Ruadan, 
abbot of Lorrha in Tipperary. Ruadan sent the 
fugitive to Wales, but Diarmaid threatened a descent 
on the Welsh coast, and Guaire was sent back again 
to Ruadan's house : where the High King himself 
found him concealed, and carried him captive to Tara. 
I quote (from Petrie) the sequel, in the quaint seven- 
teenth century rendering which Connell MacGeoghe- 
gan made from the now lost Book of Clonmacnoise. 

" Roadanus seeing himself violently abused, and bereft of his 
kinsman, sent for others of the Church, and followed the king to 
Tarrach, and there craved Hugh Gawry of the king, which he 
absolutely refused. After supper the king with the nobles of his 
court, and prelates of the Church, went to bed, and about midnight 
the king, being heavily asleep, dreamed that he saw a great tree 
that rooted deeply into the earth, whose lofty top and branches 
were so high and broad that they came neare the cloudes of heaven, 
and that he saw 1 50 men about the tree, with I 50 broad-mouthed 
sharp axes cutting the tree, and when it was cut, when it fell to the 
earth, the great noyse it made at the time of the falling thereof 
awaked the king out of his sleep ; which dream was construed, 
interpreted and expounded thus : that this great tree, strongly 
rooted in the earth, and braunched abroad, that it retched to the 
very firmament, was the king whose power was over all Ireland ; 
and that the 1 50 men with sharp axes cutting the tree, were these 
prelates saying the 150 Psalmes of David, that would cut him 
from the very rootes to his destruction, and fall for ever." 

The prophecy came true. Next day Ruadan re- 
newed his request, and, when it was again refused, 
" then Roadanus and a bishop that was with him took 

vii THE END OF TARA 239 

their bells that they had, which they rung hardly and 
cursed the king and place, and prayed God that no 
king or queen ever after would or could dwell 
in Tarrach, and that it should be waste for ever,with- 
out court or palace, as it fell out accordingly." A 
good many of us nowadays will think that Diarmaid's 
dream is one which still might come with menace to 
any leader of the Irish people ; and the action of 
St. Ruadan is fitter to be remembered than imitated 
by the Irish clergy. Some time ago a party of Catho- 
lics and Gaelic Leaguers not all laymen were at 
Tara, and discussed the history of the place in such a 
spirit that one of them questioned what St. Ruadan 
thought if he was looking down and listening to 
them ? " May be," said another, " it is not down he 
would be looking." 

Tantum Religio potuit suadere malorum. St. Ruadan 
was not the only religious-mindec* devastator of Tara. 
Where St. Ruadan cursed Tara, was at the Rath of the 
Synods Rath na Seanadh which lies, as the Dindsen- 
chus says, 4 north of the Precinct of Tara, that is Rath 
na Riogh,' just outside the church wall. Go to look for 
it and you will see what has been a rath or mound till 
quite recently, but cut about and destroyed by a set of 
people who are not only ridiculous but vandals. A 
sect or persuasion which desires to establish that the 
Irish of to-day are the lost tribes of Israel (heaven 
knows, we in Ireland have few enough of the charac- 
teristic virtues or vices of the Jew !) convinced itself, 
or was convinced, that the prophet Jeremiah had 


reached Ireland, with the Ark of the Covenant among 
his baggage, and had finally interred this relic at 
Tara. Excavations undertaken in order to exhume it 
(and make Jews of us all in spite of our noses) 
resulted in the destruction of this little monument. 
They might have gone further but for a demonstra- 
tion in force headed by the poet, Mr. W. B. Yeats, 
who, it is believed, " was cursing in rhyme with three 
assonances in every line of his curse." Everything 
in Ireland is something of a joke, but to demolish 
Tara in the search for any ark was past a joke. They 
might have looked for Noah's next time and dug more 

Three notable judgments were delivered by 
Christian saints at the now demolished Rath of the 
Synods. The first was that of St. Patrick, which for- 
bade the killing of clerics. The second was that of 
St. Ruadan who may not be looking down on us. 
The third, and not the least notable, was St. Adam- 
nan's, delivered long after the desertion of Tara ; for 
Adamnan, the biographer of Columba, and one of his 
successors at lona, was not born till 624. The story 
of his Cain is told thus in an ancient Irish romance 
which has been translated by Professor Kuno Meyer, 
one of the foreign scholars to whom Ireland some day 
should assuredly erect a statue. 

" Till Adamnan's day the woman had no share in bag nor 
basket, nor in the company of the house-master ; but she dwelt in 
a hut outside the enclosure, lest bane from sea or land should come 
to her chief. The work which the gentlewoman had to do, was to 


go to battle and battlefield, encounter and camping, fighting and 
hosting, wounding and slaying. On one side of her she would carry 
her bag of provisions, on the other her babe. Her wooden pole upon 
her back. Thirty feet long it was, and had at the one end an iron 
hook which she would thrust into the tress of some woman in the 
opposite battalion. Her husband behind her, carrying a fence 
stake in his hand, and flogging her on to battle. For at that time 
it was the head of a woman or her two breasts which were taken 
as trophies. 

" Now after the coming of Adamnan no woman is deprived of 
her testimony if it be bound in righteous deeds. For a mother is 
a venerable treasure, a mother is a goodly treasure, the mother of 
saints and bishops and righteous men, an increase of the Kingdom 
of Heaven, a propagation on earth. Adamnan suffered much 
hardship for your sake, O women, so that ever since Adamnan's 
time one half of your house is yours, and there is a place for your 
chair in the other half; so that your contract and your safeguard 
are free ; and the first law made in Heaven and on earth for 
women is Adamnan's law. 

" This was the beginning of the story* Once Adamnan and his 
mother were wending their way by Ath Drochait [Drogheda] in 
the south of Bregia. ' Come upon my back, dear mother,' saith he. 
' I shall not go,' saith she. ' What is this ? what ails you ? ' saith 
he. ' Because you are not a dutiful son,' saith she. ' Who is 
more dutiful than I am ? since I put a girdle over my breast 
carrying you about from place to place, keeping you from dirt and 
wet. I know of no duty which a son of man could do to his 
mother that I do not for you, except the humming tune which 
women perform. Because I cannot perform that tune, I will have 
a sweet sounding harp made for you to play to you, with a strap of 
bronze out of it.' 'Even so,' she said. 'Your dutifulness were 
good ; however that is not the duty that I desire, but that you should 
free women for me from encounter, from camping, from fighting, 
from hosting, from wounding, from slaying, from the bondage of 
the caldron.' 

Then she went upon her son's back until they chanced to come 
upon a battlefield. Such was the thickness of the slaughter into 



which they came that the soles of one woman would touch the 
neck of another. Though they beheld the battlefield, they saw 
nothing more touching or pitiful than the head of a woman in one 
place and the body in another, and her little babe upon the breasts 
of the corpse, a stream of milk upon one of its cheeks and a 
stream of blood upon the other." 

The mother of Adamnan bade her son " prove his 
clerkship upon " the dead woman, and he raised her to 
Jife. " Well, now, Adamnan," she said, " to thee it 
is given to free the women of the Western World. 
Neither drink nor food shall go into thy mouth until 
women have been freed by thee." He thought that 
a hard saying. " If my eyes see food, I shall stretch 
out my hands for it." But she chained him at the 
Bridge of Swilly, in Tyrconnell, with a stone in his 
mouth that kept life in him, and he was there eight 
months, and he begged for a change of torture. Then 
she buried him in a stone chest at Raphoe, so that 
worms devoured the root of his tongue, u and not 
many women would do so to their sons." He was 
there four years, and angels came to him bidding him 
arise. " I will not arise," said Adamnan, " until 
women are freed for me." And the angel answered : 
"By reason of your sufferance you shall have all you 
ask of God." 

"'It shall not be in my time if it is done,' said Loingsech 
Breban, a native of Fanait he was, of the race of Conall. 'An 
evil time when a man's sleep shall be murdered for women, that 
women should live, men should be slain. Put the deaf and dumb 
one to the sword who asserts anything but that women shall be in 
everlasting bondage to the brink of Doom.' " 


Then the seven kings of Ireland came out to slay 
Adamnan, and he took no sword with him to the 
battle but " the bell of Adamnan's wrath, to wit the 
little bell of Adamnan's altar table. And he struck the 
bell against them, pronouncing maledictions until 
securities and bonds were given him for the emancipa- 
tion of women." There were strong warranties ; sun 
and moon and all the elements of God : Peter, Paul, 
Andrew, and the other Apostles ; Gregory, the two 
Patricks, the two Ciarans, the two Cronans, the 
four Fintans, and a long host of Irish saints. 

These guarantors " gave three shouts of malediction 
on every male who would kill a woman with his 
right hand or left, by a kick or by his tongue, so that 
his heirs are elder and nettle and the corncrake." 

The curious will find in Anecdote Oxoniensia 
(Mediaeval and Modern Series, Part XII.) the rest of 
this Cain Adamnan which details the criminal law as 
established in the early days of Christianity in regard 
to offences against women : the fines for their killing, 
for insult, for a blow, and so on. Here there is no 
more to be said, but that no man ever legislated more 
effectively than Adamnan, for women receive more 
honour in Ireland than in any other country. The 
Cain doubtless represents the elaborated substance of 
a judgment actually delivered by the saint from Rath 
na Seanadh, and if for no other cause Tara would be 
illustrious. Adamnan, who, like Columba, was a 
northern, and a prince of the Hy Neill, is honoured 
to-day in his own country : near the bridge of Swilly, 

R 2 


the place of his torture, rises to-day a noble cathedral 
which the people of Tyrconnell have dedicated under 
his auspices. And in Letterkenny, beside St. Eunan's 
Cathedral (the name has been softened in modern 
Irish and is pronounced Oonan), rises also a prosperous 
seminary, St. Eunan's College, where the tongue of 
Columba and of Eunan is not forgotten, nor the 
ancient literature disregarded out of whose remains 
have been trying to build up some picture of the 
life that was once at the centre of Milesian power. 

Here at Tara, Adamnan has a monument less con- 
spicuous but by more than a thousand years more 
ancient his cross, of which now nothing is left but a 
stump with a sculptured figure now barely discernible. 
The churchyard wall inside which this cross stands is 
a link with that later sad episode in Tara's history, 
commemorated for all time perhaps by the most 
famous of all Tara's wonders. 

The small obelisk or pillar stone set upright on 
the mound called Forradh, is held by Petrie to be 
none other than the Lia Fdil itself the " Stone of 
Destiny," on which the High King stood at his 
installation, and it roared accepting the new monarch. 
Whether Petrie be right or no, let antiquarians 
decide. Another tradition reports that the Lia Fail 
was taken to Scotland for the installation of Fergus 
MacErc, one of the kings who, setting out from 
Tara, conquered Ulster, ousting the line of Con- 
chobar, and who subsequently in the fifth century ex- 
tended their sovereignty of Dalriada across the Moyle 


into Scotland. This story continues the adventures of 
the Lia Fdil, telling how Edward I. carried it to West- 
minster, and how it is now under the Coronation chair. 
No authority for this tale is adduced older than the 
thirteenth century, and it is evident that all the 
accounts in the Dindsenchus speak of the Lia Fail as 
actually to be seen in its position beside the Mound 
of Hostages not a gun shot from where the pillar- 
stone now stands removed by pious hands to be a 
monument over the Croppies' Grave. 

Yet before I follow that link between what is so 
old and so obliterated and the newer memory, still 
happily and unhappily so actual and recent, two 
moments in the history of Ireland must be called to 
mind when Tara was the theatre of great events. In 
979 Malachy (Maelseachlain), then roydamna, or 
recognised successor to the High Kingship, met the 
Danes at the royal hill and inflicted on them a defeat 
which did for Leath Cuinn what the victory of 
Mahon and Brian at Sollohed had already done for the 
southern half of Ireland. From Tara Malachy 
marched on Dublin and took it with a rush (as the 
Dalcais took Limerick after Sollohed), and liberated 
2,000 captives. It was the end, say the Four Masters, 
of Ireland's Babylonian captivity. 

But the two great champions who so well defended 
Ireland had no peace between themselves. Malachy 
marched out of Meath and destroyed the sacred tree 
of Magh Adair, where the Dalcassian kings were 
crowned. Brian retaliated on Meath : and inter- 


mittent war followed. Yet these two kings, the 
ablest perhaps that ever flourished in Ireland, showed 
themselves capable of united action, and, allied, they 
drove Danes and Leinstermen before them at 
Glenmama about the millennial year 1000. But Brian 
was not content with alliance. Two years after 
Glenmama he marched with the hosting of Munster 
into Meath, to reverse a political arrangement 
which had lasted for at least six hundred years. The 
High Kingship, which since the day of Niall of the 
Nine Hostages had rested with Niall's descendants, 
ruling in Meath or in Ulster, was now claimed for 
the King of Cashel. And, to make his purpose 
plain to all, Brian marched straight to the tradi- 
tional centre of sovereignty and sat down with his 
army on the Hill of Tara. And at Tara, after 
the Northern Hy Neill had refused to support the 
Southern, he received the submission of Malachy and 
was recognised as Ard Righ of Erin. Yet his 
occupation of Tara was only an impressive demon- 
stration. St. Ruadan's curse still held its power, and 
neither Brian nor any king of them ruled Ireland 
from Tara. 

Brief must be my reference to that sad later episode 
which the Lia Fail (perhaps) commemorates. In 
1798 Ireland was organised for revolt under leaders 
who contemplated such a revolution as was made in 
England when William of Orange landed. But the 
French expedition, which was to have been the rally- 


ing point of a rising so universal as to obviate the 
necessity of bloodshed, never delayed its coming : 
while men waited for it, the leaders were arrested : 
and the whole organisation lay paralysed. 

In the last days of May mail coaches, according 
to arrangement, were stopped the signal for the 
rising. But there was no man to take the lead, and 
the flame of insurrection merely sputtered and crackled 
in isolated districts. In Meath the people rose, and 
from the borders of county Dublin drew to Tara as a 
natural fortress, where their principal position was 
inside the churchyard wall. They were attacked 
here on May 26th by four hundred of the king's 
troops and driven out, after what was more like 
a battle than most of these tumultuary engage- 
ments before the main war blazed out in Wexford. 
About 400 are said to have been killed : and the 
people of the country dug a grave for them in 
the great central mound, and dragging the pillar 
stone from where it lay, set it up for a memorial 
over them. 

Two generations later the hill saw a very different 
gathering. In 1843 O'Connell, then in the zenith 
of his power, was organising through Ireland a vast 
agitation for Repeal, and he summoned a meeting for 
August the 1 5th (Lady-day in harvest). Estimates 
of the number assembled that day stupefy us : the 
Times said, a million: and let it be remembered, nine- 
tenths of the vast concourse must have come there 
on foot from all parts of Ireland. But in those days 


Meath was as populous as it is deserted to-day : men, 
not cattle, lived on the rich land. 

Six altars were erected on the hill, and from dawn 
priests were busy ministering the sacrament to wor- 
shippers unnumbered. These were the days of Father 
Mathew's power, and the meeting was one of a 
population almost universally pledged to sobriety. 
And it has been noted in Ireland that in times of intense 
political agitation as the years before 1798 drunken- 
ness becomes rare. The men who listened to 
O'Connell might be excited, but not with liquor. 
As he drove down from Dublin in his coach and four, 
ten thousand horsemen met him and escorted him to 
Tara of the Kings. Then standing " on the spot 
from which in ancient times emanated the social 
power, the legal authority, the right to dominion over 
the furthest extremes of the island, and the power 
of concentrating the entire nation for the purpose 
of national defence," he raised his tremendous voice 
before that listening multitude " to protest against 
the unfounded and unjust union as not binding 
upon conscience, void in principle, void as a matter 
of right and in constitutional law." 

However, not much came of that meeting. We 
still enjoy the blessings of the union : our population 
has been halved, and our taxation doubled : the more 
fertile parts of the country fatten cattle for the 
English market, the less fertile breed citizens for the 
United States of America. 



SEVENTY-EIGHT miles west of Dublin, at the end 
of a huge stretch of rail, which rims through bog 
reclaimed and bog unreclaimed without so much as 
a cutting, you reach the most famous ford in Ireland 
Athlone. For three days' march to the southward, 
and for two days' march to the north of it, the 
Shannon and its lakes make a mearing-dyke deep and 
wide, separating the rest of Ireland from that region 
of Cromwell's famous alternative Hell or Con- 
naught. But here at Athlone, below the tail-race 
from Lough Ree, the great river was fordable. At 
present, of course, modern science has dammed up the 
stream, and instead of the ford we have a long weir 
with its wild tumble of water : but the bridge leading 
to the castle stands where, in Elizabeth's reign, the first 
arched bridge was built over the shallows. Guns from 
a fort on the Westmeath shore, guns from the castle 
on the Roscommon side, command the pass into 
Connaught : we sleep secure in Ireland. 


Athlone marks more than the ford of the Shannon. 
It was also a terminus of the Eskir Riada, a natural 
causeway which led from Meath and Kildare through 
the treacherous expanses of the Bog of Allen. This 
line of drift-gravel hills crosses Ireland from Dublin 
to Galway Bay, and the ford marked the point where 
the Shannon bursts through the barrier. Thus the 
town, built on spurs of the Eskir, stands high rela- 
tively to the level of the surrounding country, and on 
the Westmeath bank its highest point is marked by 
the lanceate spire of a modern Catholic Church 
resembling in this matter almost every town in 

The town has no history in the early days of Ireland, 
though the name of the ford occurs constantly in 
Irish annals. Dr. Joyce thinks that Luan was a 
franklin, charged with the duty of hospitality, who 
maintained here a place of lodging, and that the place 
was called after him, Ath Luain, Luain's Ford. But 
when we cannot have historic certainty it is as well 
to take what is most picturesque, and for my etymo- 
logy I would sooner go to the Tain B6 Cuailgne. 
The saga tells how, after the last great fight, when 
the host of Connaught was broken, and Maeve her- 
self had escaped only by the chivalry of Cuchulain 
(who protected her westwards till she was across this 
very ford of Athlone), the Brown Bull of Cooley, 
for whom the great foray was begun, met his rival 
the White-horned of Connaught, and how men de- 
sisted from their own battle to watch that new 


encounter. The two beasts gored and pushed each 
other half over the central plain, and in their going 
they trampled the life out of poison-tongued Bricriu, 
which was an almsdeed ; but at last the Brown bull 
came away with the rent fragments of Findbennach 
on his horns, and the loin he dropped at the ford of 
Shannon, and its name is thence Ath Luain, the Ford 
of the Loin. 

Bull fight or hostelry, we may take which deriva- 
tion pleases us : but I do not find that the Celtic 
princes appreciated this position at its true worth. 
It is true that when the millennium came actually 
and figuratively, and Brian Borumha began to exer- 
cise a real sovereignty over all Ireland, he ap- 
pointed a great meeting at Athlone in the year 1001. 
Hither came his inland fleet from Lough Derg ; 
hither he himself with his Dalcassians marched from 
Kincora through Connaught ; and hither were sent 
the hostages from Connaught and from Meath 
Meath, so long the sovereign province to meet Brian 
and to acknowledge him as lord paramount of Ireland. 

Yet under the Irish no town of importance grew 
up at Athlone, though in 1140 the O'Conors had a 
fortified tower there and a bridge of hurdles leading 
to it. But the Normans, with their eye for points 
which would give them a grip on conquered territory, 
did not neglect Athlone, and John de Grey, who was 
Lord Justiciary of Ireland from 1210 onwards, built 
a stone castle inside of the O'Conors' rath. Henry 
III. attached such importance to this possession that 


in granting dominion of" Ireland to Prince Edward 
he reserved Athlone to himself as a key too im- 
portant to delegate. Elizabeth made it the seat of 
the Presidency of Connaught, and thus for seven 
centuries English power has sat astride of the passage 
to Connaught, save in one brief but notable period 
of history. Athlone is so closely linked with the 
memory of Williamite wars that I must plunge into 
these more recent associations before I come to the 
main business of this chapter, which is concerned not 
with war but with peace, not with a fortress, but with 
a seat of learning, not with Sarsfield and Ginkel, but 
St. Ciaran and his learned successors at Clonmacnoise. 

In 1690, then, after the Boyne was lost, Ireland 
east of the Shannon lay open and unresisting to 
William. But in Connaught, Sarsfield's energy had 
left William's cause no footing. The Dutchman, 
quietly collecting his power at Dublin (while James 
was in precipitate flight for France) sent an army 
west under General .Douglas. The centre of the 
Irish resistance if resistance were indeed to be 
offered, for intrigue was then busy in the Irish 
camp would be at Limerick, a kind of outpost 
of Connaught on the English bank of Shannon. 
William's own advance must be on Limerick ; but he 
hoped, before the Irish had rallied from their defeat, 
to force a way across their natural moat, and get 
between Limerick and Galway. He was disappointed. 
Colonel Grace, the valiant gentleman who com- 


manded for King James at Athlone, repelled Douglas 
for ten days ; and, meanwhile, Sarsfield was moving 
swiftly from Limerick along the left bank and 
threatening Douglas's communications. The news 
of his approach was sufficient ; the attack was with- 

There followed in August, 1 690, William's repulse 
at Limerick ; then the long winter of delay ; and 
at last in May, 1691, St. Ruth arrived with rein- 
forcements from France and took command, not for 
King James, but explicitly for King Louis. Sarsfield 
for a while refused to serve on these terms, and this 
may account for the fatal lack of confidence in the 
ablest Irish soldier by which St. Ruth completed the 
ruin of the Jacobite cause. 

Ginkel, commanding for William, moved out of 
Dublin through Westmeath, took Ballymore (half 
way between Mullingar and Athlone), and then, 
reaching the Shannon, easily captured the part of 
Athlone which was on the Leinster bank and ill- 
defended. Here, as throughout the Williamite war, 
the contest was between an army fully equipped with 
ordnance and one barely provided with muskets. 
But Ginkel was not yet across the Shannon, and the 
retreating Irish had broken a gap in the bridge. 
For ten days he cannonaded the trenches, distant 
only a musket shot across the water ; and under 
cover of this cannonade his sappers succeeded in 
throwing beams and transverse planks across the 
broken arch of the bridge. But a forlorn hope was 


summoned, and ten Irish soldiers and a sergeant 
volunteered to cut away the new woodwork. They 
tore up the planks by main force, then plied saw and 
axe on the beams under the concentrated fire of an 
army, till not one man of them was left standing. 
But the work was more than half done. Eleven 
more volunteered, the gap was opened again as wide 
as ever, but only two out of the two-and-twenty 
volunteers came back alive. 

On the following day Ginkel tried an assault by 
fording and throwing a pontoon bridge. St. Ruth 
from his camp two miles off reinforced the town, and 
the attack was repelled. The French General, who 
had already given it as his opinion that Ginkel 
deserved to be hanged if he attempted to cross, and 
that he himself ought to be hanged if Ginkel suc- 
ceeded, evidently considered the demonstration com- 
plete, and returned to his quarters leaving the town 
to be defended next day by two regiments of the 
rawest recruits. Ginkel learnt this fact and decided 
to try again. A possible ford was indicated below 
the castle, and a recaptured deserter was offered leave 
to attempt the crossing as his chance for life. Plung- 
ing hurriedly in, and followed by a hail of bullets 
carefully directed to miss him, the man, being taken 
for a deserter, was allowed to cross unmolested by 
the Irish. Perhaps they were chary of their powder, 
for the recruits were only provided that day with 
two rounds a-piece, in spite of their colonel's protest. 
His superior officer Maxwell, a Scotch Jacobite 


(everyone commanded under James but Irishmen), 
replied to a request for bullets by asking " if they 
wanted to shoot laverocks." Gink-el, seeing the ford 
passable, ordered the advance : Athlone was taken in 
half an hour, while d'Usson, the Frenchman in charge 
of the defence, was still at dinner. Yet before this, 
some word of a threatened movement had reached 
the main camp, and Sarsfield urged the sending of 
reinforcements. St. Ruth, who was preparing for a 
shooting party, laughed in his face, a quarrel broke 
out, and nothing was done till nothing could be 
done ; for the works facing the Connaught side had 
been left standing, and Ginkel promptly manned 

So ended the siege of Athlone. But my story 
would be strangely incomplete if I did not recall the 
main features of what followed. Sarsfield was for a 
Fabian policy. The English, he said, by crossing 
into Roscommon, had brought themselves into a 
boggy and difficult country, where they could with 
difficulty move, and where they must lose men by 
malaria. But St. Ruth, the accomplished soldier, 
was ill disposed to such counsels ; he felt the reverse 
which his carelessness had sustained too keenly, and 
he trusted to wipe out all memory of it by a crown- 
ing success. So, falling back across the Suck into the 
eastern parts of Galway, he chose with care a strong 
position and awaited confidently the attack which 
Ginkel did not refuse. 

The battle of Aughrim, if not the most decisive 


was by far the greatest struggle that had been fought 
in Ireland since the English and their Irish allies beat 
O'Neill and O'Donnell at Kinsale in 1603 ; and it 
is strange that so few travellers make a pilgrimage to 
the spot. Ballinasloe, where the armies crossed the 
Suck, is about eighteen miles south-west of Athlone 
by rail ; and for one week in the year (sometime 
about October) Ballinasloe itself is worth a journey to 
see, as the biggest stock fair of Europe is held there. 
Its importance may be roughly judged from the fact 
that during the fair- week beds fetch a sovereign a 
night so, at least, I was told by a hotel-keeper in 
Athlone. At other times there is little to detain one 
in the Town of the Hostings (Eaile na Slogh\ 
and Aughrim is only four miles distant. As you 
approach the village with its little square church 
tower, the road lies level, raised through a bog ; and 
this, in 1691, was a mere causeway guarded by an 
old castle of the O'Kellys, whose ruins are still 
evident just under the church. In the village I 
Looked about for guidance, and was lucky enough to 
hit on a young postman with a taste for reading, who 
guided me to the central point of the battlefield. 

Above the church the ground slopes steeply up- 
wards, and the crest of the rising ground is marked 
by a ring of earthworks ; another fortification is 
halfway down the hill slope old raths utilised that 
day for modern war. From these one could see, 
looking across towards Ballinasloe, the answering 
ridge of Urachree, perhaps a mile distant across the 

vni AUGHRIM 259 

level bog. In the dry summer no great obstacle 
seemed to intervene, but even after drainage has been 
at work for centuries, that low ground still becomes 
almost a lake in winter. The English right 
advanced obliquely by the causeway (following what 
is now the main road), but were repelled by the 
Irish left and driven into the bog. Their centre and left 
seemingly crossed the morass where a line of pine 
trees indicates drier ground. St. Ruth at the critical 
moment charged from the top of the hill-slope and, 
halfway down it, was struck dead by a cannon ball. 
My guide showed me what was left of ' St. Ruth's 
thorn ' nothing but a few scraps of touchwood 
where the stump had been ; yet the place was marked 
by a ring of stones. The most interesting part of 
the day to me was the story of these stones. They 
had been built up round the thorn-butt by an old 
man with whom my friend had herded sheep as a 
boy: and this old self-appointed curator " would often 
be hunting " with dog and stick any of the vandals 
who attempted to cut their names on the stump which 
marked where the General was laid down in death. 
From him my guide had his tradition, and such 
tradition merits every respect. Part of it has passed 
into speech : for " Bloody Hollow " is still the name 
given to a dip in the road leading to Loughrea from 
Aughrim, just under the lower fort on the hill slope. 
Here a gripe and the line of firs indicate a passage 
from the bog ; and here, on the first firm ground, 
men came to handgrips. A pretty spot it is now 

s 2 


and peaceful, shadowed with plumy ash-boughs : 
but once, they say, blood ran there like a river. 

Where in the meantime was Sarsfield ? My guide 
took me along the road far out to the right of St. 
Ruth's position and showed me where his mentor had 

The Bloody Hollow. 

taught him to believe that the Irish leader stood 
fretting and inactive all through that momentous day 
for St. Ruth had ordered him to stay out of action 
and forbidden him to move without express orders. 
It seemed to me that tradition was right, for here, 
curving round the bog on the Irish right, a low 
eskir or sand-ridge makes a natural screen, incredibly 

vin AUGHRIM 261 

like man's work : merely a steep green bank, almost 
sheer up and down, but fifteen or twenty feet high. 
Behind this an army could be concealed, and from 
the top of Urachree no eye could discern the nature 
of this curious formation. Issuing through a gap 
in the eskir a deadly flank charge along the foot 
of the slope might have been delivered. Irish 
history is full of might-have-beens. But no arrange- 
ment had been made to replace St. Ruth, the charge 
was checked at its height by his death, and the first 
intimation that Sarsfield had of his duty came with 
the sight of disordered fugitives turning back to him. 
He took command then, and " did marvels," says a 
French chronicler, in conducting the retreat to 
Limerick. At the Boyne his fortune had been very 
similar. Surely the stars in their courses have always 
sided against Ireland ? 

It was pleasant to find so much memory preserved 
concerning the battle by at least one native of 
Aughrim. There was also a vague tradition of 
" St. Ruth's dog," who has been seen at night " with 
two shining eyes on him and he coming along 
like an elephant," a portent which represents, perhaps, 
some mythologising of an awful story repeated 
by Macaulay. After Aughrim, dogs fed so full 
of human flesh that they grew dangerous as wolves, 
and men (what men were left) feared to walk 
abroad that autumn. But apart from my intelligent 
guide, I fear that even on the spot of St. Ruth's 
defeat I should have found little knowledge of the 


battle, and in any other county practically none at 
all. Yet a hundred years ago the whole story was 
minutely familiar (in a highly coloured dramatic 
version) through the length and breadth of Ireland. 
Carleton tells how the play in rhymed heroics on this 
subject, bound up with " The Siege of Londonderry," 
was one of the reading books in the hedge schools 
o'f that day (for in the hedge schools Irish children 
were taught Irish history a practice needfully 
abolished when the schools became by Act of Parlia- 
ment " National "). More than that, the play was 
constantly enacted, "in some spacious barn with a 
winnowing cloth for the curtain." At first Orange- 
men had the whole performance to themselves ; then 
Catholics volunteered to play the Catholic parts : and 
lastly (in the interests of peace and in faint endeavour 
to lessen the chances of a faction fight) the characters 
were inverted, a Papist hero played Ginkel, and the 
biggest available Orangeman strutted as Sarsfield. 
God be with the old times ! A word or two more 
of Athlone, before we leave modern history. 

Athlone is to-day an irregular huddle of a big 
town, sprawling out from both banks of the river, 
with no trace of antiquity. Its older houses have been 
modernised : one bearing the date 1626 might be of 
yesterday. The castle was remodelled early in the 
nineteenth century, though it contains old work in its 
enclosure. Near it is King Street, where an inscrip- 
tion, " Paoli, Lucas, Wilkes and Liberty, R.S., 1770," 

vni ATHLONE 263 

testifies to the enthusiasm of a citizen (Robert 
Sherwood was his name), and reminds us that 
Athlone had an existence in the eighteenth century. 
But a more illustrious association with that age is not 
far to seek Lissoy, near by, in Westmeath, is 
Goldsmith's " Auburn," and the ruin of his father's 
house is still standing. Athlone itself can show the 
tomb of Mrs. Goldsmith, wife of Oliver's cousin 
the Dean, who was buried in St. Mary's in 1769. 
One of the poet's brothers was curate here, in the 
days when Mr. Sherwood wrote up his admiration 
for the liberal patriots of Corsica, Ireland, and 
England. Such are the later landmarks that we 
light on, reviewing the history of Athlone and of 
Ireland. To-day it is pleasant to note here in the 
Catholic West a prosperous cloth mill, employing 
about 500 hands, and turning out honest serviceable 
stuff resuscitating something of the woollen trade, 
once so carefully strangled. 

Athlone should be a kind of port too, at the end 
of sixty miles of navigable water, lake and river ; 
there is a company which keeps steamers running 
daily between it and Killaloe. But I cannot answer 
for it (more is the pity) that visitors in future will 
have the chance to make the journey to Clonmacnoise 
nine miles down stream by steamboat as we did. 
The traffic of the river was deplorably small. We 
met few barges ; and the most characteristic feature 
of the navigation is still the cot, or large flat- 
bottomed punt. You will often see one filled high 


with turf ; a countryman, picturesque in his big 
slouch-hat, working her up along the bank with a 
pole from the stern, and a boy on a thwart forward, 
keeping an oar out to the stream. In such craft, very 
likely, Irish armies and Danish expeditions travelled ; 
for the fleets that we read of seem to have passed 
rapids without any grave difficulty. But doubtless 
for swifter work they had the long, narrow war- 
canoes which have been found times and again, pre- 
served in bogs. Still, the cot is indigenous as old, 
probably, as the skin-covered curragh : and it plays 
a large part in the life of these riverside people. 1 
noticed a large haycock growing up on the bank just 
beside the water in a field that had evidently been 
pasture all summer : cots alongside explained the 
riddle, it was the produce of a meadow across the 
water. There must be precarious husbandry on these 
callows, as they call the fields which are continually 
liable to flooding, and the countrymen, so deliberate 
in their movement, must have a double dose of the 
Irish gift for working with desperate speed in an 
emergency, loading and unloading in haste to antici- 
pate a down-coming flood. 

But the whole aspect of the landscape on that 
bright, chilly autumn day, suggested repose rather 
than exertion. With every long, lazy bend of the 
river a new variant of the same scene presented itself : 
swallows dipping in the flat water ; slight fringes of 
sedge lining this or that bank : a perch, or navigation 
pole, rising stiff and black at the next corner of the 

vin THE SHANNON 265 

water-way for a mark in flood time : beyond, groups 
of trees and cottages monotonously succeeding. My 
friend sketched hurriedly as the boat advanced, and 
the result was a series of impressions absurdly similar : 
the perch to the right in one, the group of trees and 
cottage to the left : in the next, trees and homestead 
to the right, perch to the left, but no other features. 
A heron sluggishly flapping across gave a sort of 
key to the whole colour-scheme with its cool greys. 

Clonmacnoise from the River. 

Geese afloat ahead of us, every one of them mirrored 
and trailing a crystalline wake as it swam, the 
cattle sleepily grazing down to the river's edge, all 
accentuated the reposeful charm of that flat yet 
flowing water. Then suddenly across a broad, still 
pool we saw Clonmacnoise rising like a cloud far of? : 
a mass of buildings, strangely suggestive in that fen 
country of a germinal Oxford, reduced to its essentials, 
gown unalloyed by town. The group of low walls 
with towers springing out of their midst was superb up 
against the blue-grey haze. But with every revolution 


of the paddles illusion scattered, and in ten minutes 
the boat was making fast to a rickety wooden pier, 
beyond which, a couple of gunshots distant, sloping 
up from a stretch of lonely callow, was a graveyard 
covered with the mouldering remains of what once 
was greatness. But 1 need not enlarge on this, for 
Mr. Thomson has suggested in one little jotting the 
massed group of buildings seen from up stream, and 
in another drawing the disconsolate aspect of this 
debris of shattered stumps. 

It is almost incredible that here once was a true 
and living centre of European culture to which men's 
thoughts turned from among far-off events and cities 
of illustrious kings. Yet the fact is demonstrable in 
many ways in none more clearly than by the extant 
letter from Alcuin to Colchu. Alcuin, it may be as 
well to explain, was a Northumbrian noble, born 
about 735 A.D., who became a favourite pupil of 
Archbishop Egbert of York, and, after a distinguished 
career in Britain, was induced to attach himself to 
the Court of Charlemagne as a kind of director of 
religious studies perhaps one should say, rather, as 
Minister of Education. However one phrase it, 
Alcuin was among the foremost men of Europe, both 
for learning and influence. His correspondent, Colga 
or Colchu the Wise, was Lector {Ferlegind) in the 
great school of learning which flourished among the 
buildings whose grey ruins now stand on the bare 
slope by the lonely stretch of river, in as desolate a 
spot as can be found in all Ireland. Colga's chief 


work is said to have been the Scuaip-Chrabhaidh, or 
Besom of Devotion a quaint title enough for what 
is described as a collection of ardent litanies (still 
extant in the seventeenth century, when Colgan, an 
Irish scholar of that day, described it). And it will 
be seen that what Alcuin sends to the Irish saint and 
scholar, is political news of the great world, and 
gifts : what he asks is his prayers. Here is the letter, 
as Ussher copied it from manuscripts in the Cottonian 

" To his blessed master and kind father Colchu, from Alcuin, 
the humble Levite, greeting. 

" The news of your Fatherhood's health and prosperity 
rejoiced my very heart. And because I judged you would be 
curious about my journey as well as about recent political events, I 
have endeavoured to acquaint your wisdom with what I have seen 
and heard, so far as my unscholarly pen will permit me. First let 
your loving care know that through God's mercy the Holy Church 
has peace, advances and increases in all quarters of Europe. For 
the ancient Saxons and all the Frisian tribes, yielding under pres- 
sure from King Charles, some to bribes, some to threats, have all 
accepted the faith of Christ. But in the past year the King made 
a raid on the Slavs and brought them under his rule. The Greeks, 
however, for a third season took a fleet to Italy and were driven 
back to their ships by the King's generals, with a loss, it is said, 
of 4,000 slain and 1,000 captured. In the same way the Avari, 
whom we call the Huns, burst upon Italy, but were driven 
ignominiously back by the Christians. . . . Moreover, His Most 
Christian Majesty's officers won a great part of Spain from the 
Saracens, some three hundred miles of the seaboard. But, unhappily, 
the same accursed Saracens control the whole of Africa, and Asia 
major in great measure. I think I wrote recently to your respected 
wisdom concerning their expedition. 

" For the rest, holy father, let your revered self know that I, 


your son, and Joseph your countryman, are by God's grace in good 
health, and all your men who are with us serve God prosperously. 
But I do not know what awaits us j for some hint of strife has by 
devilish fomentations sprung up between King Charles and King 
OfFa : so that intercourse between the two countries is suspended. 
Some say I am to be sent to that quarter (/.<?., Britain) on a mission 
of peace ; but I entreat that, going or staying, I may be fortified 
by your consecrated prayers. I must have committed some offence, 
since for long I have not been rewarded with a sight of your 
Fatherhood's delightful letters ; yet I believe that I feel daily the 
urgent need of the prayers of so holy a person as yourself. I have 
sent you a little oil which is difficult to obtain now in Britain, that 
you may distribute it among the needs of the bishops, whether for 
the use of man or for God's honour. I have also sent 50 shekels 
for the brothers from the bounty of King Charles (I entreat you 
will pray for him) ; and 50 shekels a.3 alms of my own." 

A few more gifts and requests for prayers on his 
own behalf and the great king's conclude the 
epistle, which certainly makes it clear that Alcuin 
had met Colchu, and also suggests that he had 
been a student in Ireland. Yet Colchu may have 
crossed to France when Alcuin presided over the 
monastery of St. Martin at Tours, always a great 
resort of Irish priests. In any case, Alcuin was 
naturally connected with Ireland, for Northumbria, 
where he was born, was Christianised by an Irishman, 
Aidan, and in the seventh century Northumbrian 
abbeys refused to conform to the uniform usage in 
celebrating Easter, adhering to the old Irish method 
for fixing the date. 

This Northumbrian offshoot is only one ramifica- 
tion of the work which began in the fifth century 
under Patrick, and was carried outside of Ireland by 


Columba in the sixth. And as Columba's foundation 
at lona whence Christianity was brought to 
Northumbria and to many other parts of Britain 
was the most important of all foundations made 
outside of Ireland after Patrick's day, so it may 
fairly be said that no religious community established 
in Ireland after Patrick's death was so influential 
as that which Columba's younger contemporary, 
Ciaran, inaugurated here at Clonmacnoise. 

Ciaran got his training at Clonard on the upper 
waters of the Boyne, and there Columba became his 
friend. The fierce northern saint, the warrior of 
Cuildremhne, wrote a verse of lament when Ciaran, 
" the youth, gentle, loving, tender-hearted," departed 
from Meath to take up his abode upon the bare 
flagstones of Aran, under the teaching of St. Enda. 
What is known as the Second Order of Irish Saints 
was then growing into prominence, and Enda was 
chief among them. The First Order, Patrick and 
his successors, were all bishops, all founders of 
churches, men living an active life and moving 
about in the world, secular clerics, not anchorites. 
Most of these men were foreigners like Patrick 
himself, and they flourished for four reigns, down 
to 543. The Second Order, native to Ireland, im- 
posed on themselves a severer discipline of life, 
excluding women altogether from their monasteries. 
They also endured through four reigns, to 597, and 
they were succeeded by the Third Order of Saints, 
mere hermits, who dwelt in desert places, and lived 


on herbs and the alms of the faithful. Unlike these, 
the men of the Second Order were founders of great 
societies of co-operative labour. Each community 
farmed its own land, spun its own wool, built its 
own churches and cells of wood or wattles in the 
early days. Life was simple, for the monastic rule was 
very strict and almost excluded flesh meat, and the 
severities which saints of the Third Order affected 
condemning themselves, for instance, to live in stone 
cells where a man could neither stand nor lie 
were only exaggerations of mortifications habitually 
practised in communities of the Second Order. But 
the essence of the community was service, as that 
of the hermitage was contemplation and prayer ; and 
Alcuin's letter with its political budget makes plain 
that men thus living out of the world nevertheless 
did not desire to cloister their intelligences. Again, 
manual labour must have been subservient to study 
in a place where such scholars were produced ; and 
among the community of artisans great craftsmen were 
fostered. Yet this came later. In the early days, 
and perhaps up to Colchu's time (he died before 
800 A. D.), stonework was little used. The monastery 
was burned three times in the eighth century, seem- 
ingly by accident, fire springing up among the small 
huts in which scholars and teachers lived. Classes 
were held out of doors ; churches existed only, it 
seems, for sacred uses, and they were multiplied, not 
increased in bulk, as the congregation augmented. 
There are seven of them still at Clonmacnoise, and 


the biggest is only sixty feet in length. Scholars 
attended mass with the group to which they belonged, 
as at Oxford each college has its own chapel. The 
groups were many, for the special strength of 
Clonmacnoise lay in the fact that it was a national 
institution identified with no class or province, and 
its abbots were chosen from all quarters of Ireland. 

This impartiality may have originated in the fact 
that Ciaran, though born in Roscommon, had an Ulster 
man for father and a Kerry woman for mother ; 
and thus the tendency to identify the religious body 
with the clan of its founder was counteracted. Ciaran's 
personal influence cannot, one would say, have counted 
for much in the matter, since he founded Clonmacnoise 
in January 544 and died in the following September, at 
the age of thirty-two. It would be difficult to say what 
consideration prompted him when he set out with 
eight companions from Hare Island on Lough Ree, 
where they had been for three years established on 
a site still marked by ruins (for it was afterwards 
an offshoot of Clonmacnoise). Story tells how they 
fared down along the river, and rejected one spot as 
too fertile and too beautiful for the abode of 
saints ; but when they reached the sloping meadow 
which was then called Ard Taprait, the Height of 
the Spring, Ciaran bade them pitch their tent. 
" Here," he said, " let us remain, for many souls will 
ascend to heaven from this spot." And in truth a be- 
lief grew up that by the influence of the "gentle, 
loving, tender-hearted " saint and scholar, the place 


was so hallowed that whoever was interred " in the 
graveyard of noble Ciaran " would never be adjudged 
to damnation ; and it became in consequence a royal 
burying ground, and kings contended with gifts for a 
place of sepulchre. The last king of all who claimed 
the High Kingship of Ireland, Rory O'Connor, died 
at Cong, as has been told already : but they brought 
his body to be laid in the sacred earth within the 
cathair of Ciaran. 

Scholarship increased along with the sanctity. 
Men came probably from all parts of Europe, cer- 
tainly from Britain. Bede, writing of the great pes- 
tilence of 664, says that it raged also in Ireland " and 
many of the nobility and the lower ranks of the En- 
glish nation were there at that time." Some adopted a 
monastic life ; " others chose to apply themselves to 
study, going about from one master to another. The 
Irish willingly received them all and took care to 
supply them with food, also to furnish them with 
books and teaching gratis." Such a master was 
Colchu, Ferlegind, that is, not abbot, but chief pro- 
fessor of Clonmacnoise. And if foreigners came to 
him and his school, Irish pupils of his also went out 
through the world. Alcuin, we have seen, sends 
Colchu word of " all your men " who in that year 
(798) were in the monastery of St. Martin by the 

These Irish scholars were men of note in their day, 
and interesting relics of their work survive. For in- 
stance, among the manuscript records in Paris was 



discovered a geographical treatise On the Measurement 
of the Globe, written in 825 by Dicuil, an Irish 
monk ; and a very curious passage fixes Dicuil with 
tolerable certainty for a pupil of Clonmacnoise. 

"Although we never read in any book" (he writes) "that 
any branch of the Nile flows into the Red Sea, yet Brother 
Fidelis told in my presence to my master Suibhne (to whom 
under God I owe whatever knowledge I possess) that certain 
clerics and laymen from Ireland, going to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, 
sailed up the Nile for a long way." 

Now the only Suibhne (or Sweeny) mentioned 
by the annalists within a generation before 825, 
was Abbot of Clonmacnoise in 816. But what a 
curious light this throws on those dark ages Irish 
monks making their way through Trajan's canal, 
then open, from Egypt to the Red Sea not 
without study of Egypt's antiquities. The afore- 
said brother Fidelis (Dicuil tells us), " measured 
the base of a pyramid and found it 400 feet in 
length." He wished also to examine the exact point 
where Moses entered the Red Sea in order to try if 
he could find any traces of the chariot of Pharaoh 
or the wheel tracks, but the sailors were in a hurry 
and would not allow him to go on this excursion. 

I derive my knowledge of Dicuil from Archbishop 
Healy's Ancient Schools and Scholars of Ireland, 
a work which I have pillaged as freely as the Danes 
pillaged Clonmacnoise. Yet Archbishop Healy, who 
quotes part of Alcuin's letter to Colchu, makes no 
reference to a passage in it which has an interesting 


application. Alcuin writes complacently of the 
manner in which the Holy Church " advances and 
increases in all quarters of Europe." " The ancient 
Saxons and all the Frisian tribes, yielding under 
pressure from King Charles, some to bribes, some to 
threats, have all accepted the faith of Christ." 
Charles the Great was drastic in his methods of 
evangelisation. He beheaded 4,500 recalcitrant 
Saxons in one day, and other missionary operations 
consisted in destroying with fire and sword all Upper 
Saxony, and the countries between the Elbe and the 
Baltic. Those who would not accept Christianity 
were driven north into Denmark, and soon all 
Scandinavia was filled with the fierce population, who 
regarded the faith of Christians as a badge of slavery 
which tyrannous oppression had sought to inflict 
upon them. Like hornets disturbed, they retaliated 
indiscriminately, and no place suffered worse than the 
quiet spot to which Alcuin despatched for Colchu's 
benefit, his account of Charlemagne's labours for 
the faith. Colchu did not live to feel the recoil of 
that blow which Charlemagne struck and Alcuin 
applauded. But Colchu's near successors felt it with 
a vengeance, and for three centuries literary activity 
must have been sadly hampered at Clonmacnoise. I 
cannot imagine students resorting freely to an 
institution which, between 800 and noo A.D., 
was destroyed by violence some five-and-twenty 
separate times. 

Ten of these raids were accomplished by Danes 

T 2 


the rest by Irishmen following their example with 
alacrity. There are two round towers at Clonmacnoise 
and the question has been asked, Why ? To me the 
answer seems clear : that in a community so exposed, 
so numerous and, probably, so prosperous, more lives 
and valuables had to be secured than could be huddled 
in haste into only one of the bell-tower fortresses. 

The most notable of the raiders was Turgesius, 
the only Dane who seems to have aimed at a 
complete conquest of Ireland. In 838 he established 
a fleet on Lough Ree, and from this base plundered 
all that was worth harrying. But at Clonmacnoise 
his fierce Queen Ota, a Pythoness, took possession of 
the main church in Ciaran's city, and from the 
altar there delivered her wild oracles and profaned 
the building with the ferocious rites of Norse 

But the daimhliag, or great stone church, which 
stands to-day, is not the building which Ota desecrated. 
It was built in 909 by Flann, High King of Eire, 
and by Colman, then Abbot both of Clonmacnoise 
and Clonard. The sculptured cross which Mr. 
Thomson has drawn represents on its eastward face 
scenes in the life of Christ, but in one compartment 
of the western face can still be dimly deciphered : 
" Pray for Flann, son of Malachy." And in another 
panel we are told : " Colman made this cross for 
King Flann." There it stands after a thousand 
years, marking, probably the king's grave, and 


testifying at all events to the craftsmanship of 

The church itself has been somewhat pulled about, 

King Flctnn ' s Cross. 

and an elaborate doorway in the south-west corner 
bears an inscription to the effect that " Odo, dean 
of Clonmacnoise, caused it to be made " Archbishop 
Healy thinks, in the fifteenth century, but at all 


events, after Clonmacnoise passed into Norman keep- 
ing. This door was indicated to me as one of the 
curiosities by a friendly passer-by who told me it 
was called the " Whispering door," and bid me 
stand with my ear to one of the pillar jambs. I did 
so while he turned a broad back on me and applied 
his lips to the other clustered pillar, and through the 
fluted recesses of Dean Odo's doorway came to me 
the mysterious message : " It's a warrrum day." I 
never knew words to sound so hot ; they " breathed 
his panting soul into my ear." For the rest my 
acquaintance could give me little information, except 
one piece of statistics which I asked for. There were 
within about four miles round no Protestants except 
a couple who lived at an adjoining house. The 
reason for my inquiry was that, although the 
enclosure of the churches and towers is in charge of 
the Board of Works, one church of the seven is still, 
I cannot say used, but licensed for religious purposes. 
It lies nearest the river, and its general aspect of a 
neglected outhouse is vaguely indicated by Mr. 
Thomson's drawing. I saw it flanked by battered 
drainpipes, roofed with broken slates ; the window 
frame, gaping at the joints, lacked two panes, and 
where sections of the shutter had fallen to the 
ground, I had a view of dirty and unused pews 
among walls distempered a mouldy blue. The door, 
of course, was hermetically closed. It appears that 
occasional services are held there to judge from 
appearances, about once in five years. In the name 


of common decency, if the Church of Ireland owns 
a place of worship in a site so illustrious, can it not 
be kept at least respectable ? and, if neither money 
nor care is available, can the building not be handed 
over to the ministers of that religion which is 
professed by ninety-nine in every hundred of the 
people living round this still venerated spot ? 

Let us pass to a topic which shows a more admir- 
able side of Irish Protestantism. East of the churches, 
near a cluster of trees, is what was once a nunnery 
built (presumably in penitence) by O'Rourke's 
Dervorguilla. In May, 1865, the choir arch and 
the west door were re-constructed from the frag- 
ments strewn broadcast on the ground, and the 
supervisor of this work was Dr. Graves afterwards 
Bishop of Limerick, and famous as the first inter- 
preter of Ogam writings. 

To my thinking there is no example of the 
Hiberno-Roman work so noble as these arches. Four 
tiers of carved stone recede from the widely-splayed 
opening of the choir, and the innermost and lowest is 
deeply incut with double dog-tooth ornament so as 
to give effects of the deepest shadow : whereas on 
the exterior orders, the dog-tooth moulding is raised, 
not incised, and the light shows it embossed. But 
words cannot convey that rich splendour of dignified 
ornament. Where a gap occurs at one point, re- 
storation has filled the lacuna simply with three 
receding tiers of squared stone and a string course 
over it : that was the ground-plan of the arch, 


and you see what Irish artists in stone could 
evolve from that. The west door is similar in 
character, but infinitely different in design ; all differ- 
ence residing in the treatment of shadow-spaces, for 
here is no question of introducing figure or using other 
than the simplest forms of ornament. What a deal 
perished with the suppression of native Irish civilisa- 
tion ! 

But it is not to be supposed that the Normans 
came to Clonmacnoise as destroyers. The great castle 
outside the ring of the cathair (indicated to the 
right in Mr. Thomson's drawing) was built by John 
de Grey in 1214 ; its masonry, rent by Cromwell 
into great fragmentary blocks, lies solid even in ruin. 
Odo of the doorway was presumably a Norman and 
a patron. But the fame of Clonmacnoise is all pre- 
Norman : all that its school contributes to our know- 
ledge of the past was written before the end of the 
twelfth century. That contribution is on the whole 
greater than we inherit from any other seat of Irish 

In the eleventh century, if not earlier, Ireland 
developed the art of vernacular literary prose, and the 
annalists had recourse to this medium of expression. 
Tighearnach, earliest of those annalists whose work 
has come down to us, lived and worked and died at 
Clonmacnoise. At Clonmacnoise also was written the 
Chronicon Scotorum, or Annals of the Irish, which we 
have in a copy made by Duald MacFirbis, perhaps the 
latest of all the hereditary professional scribes and 


scholars : he was murdered by a Cromwellian soldier. 
And more important even than Tighearnach we 
derive from Clonmacnoise the most ancient Irish com- 
pilation of which we have the original manuscript, 
except only the Book of Armagh. The Leabhar- 
na-h-Uidhre, or Book of the Dun Cow, contains our 
oldest version of the 'Tain Bo Cuailgne : it was copied 
by one Maelmuire, a scribe of note who came by an 
evil end, for, in 1106, robbers slew him in the midst 
of the daimhliag mbr while he was writing probably 
not in the body of the church, but rather in such 
a Scriptorium as is to be seen in Cormac's chapel at 
Cashel, running over the church and under the high- 
pitched stone roof. 

Thus there is, I think, food for reflection at Clon- 
macnoise ; and I have not half exhausted the objects 
of interest. When you are there, it is well to make 
an excursion around and see how the place lies, pent 
between limitless bogs and the river. It stands, 
indeed, on an offshoot of the eskirs ; and if you 
journey south, as I did, towards Shannon Bridge, you 
will find the road winding along the top of a ridge 
(famous, I was told, for flight-shooting when the fowl 
are passing over from the Shannon into the bog). I 
was trying to get to Clonfert (where, it is said, the 
west doorway surpasses all other examples of Hiberno- 
Roman), but the Suck stopped me. There was not 
time to get a boat and cross it, but I had a sight I did 
not count on. At Shannon Bridge the usual straggling 
street leads to a guardhouse on the left bank, while 


the entire head of the bridge on the Con naught shore 
is enclosed in a fort : cannon command the passage of 
the bridge and the road leading up to it on the other 
side. It is an interesting example of military 
engineering of a hundred years ago : disused now, and 
gradually crumbling, it will soon be as ruinous as 
Clonmacnoise. England destroyed a university and 
gave us instead, after the lapse of centuries, a barrack ; 
now we have not even that. Only a few poverty- 
stricken and ill-taught peasants, educated, since the 
days of the barrack, out of their Irish language, the 
sole relic of their hereditary culture which they 
retained ; and of these peasants any that can manage it 
are saving up money for a ticket to America. 

They were no pleasant reflections that I brought 
from Shannon Bridge : an Ireland fortified against 
the Irish ; desolation, decay, and ignorance, where 
once there had been the widest welcome of learning 
and hospitality. Maybe, some day we shall build again 
a university at Clonmacnoise ; maybe, young men 
will swim again and row races in that river during 
the pleasant intervals of labour ; maybe, some day 
Ireland may again lead Europe. But, God knows, 
few of us that are living look to see that day. 

The Muse of Ireland has her face turned ever 
backwards. Centuries ago, Enoch O'Gillan wrote 
a poem to praise and lament over the illustrious 
dead who slept within Ciaran's precinct. Yet when 
he lamented the dead at Clonmacnoise, Clonmacnoise 
itself was living : now it is dead and mouldering as 


any of Clan Creide or Clan Colman's spearmen. 
Yet since poetry can extract a sweetness even out of 
sorrow, let me close this gloomy train of reflection 
with Mr. Rolleston's beautiful rendering of these 
beautiful verses. 


In a quiet-watered land, a land of roses, 

Stands St. Ciaran's city fair, 
And the warriors of Erin in their famous generations 

Slumber there. 

There beneath the dewy hillside sleep the noblest 

Of the clan of Conn, 
Each below his stone with name in branching Ogham 

And the sacred knot thereon. 

There they laid to rest the seven kings of Tara, 

There the sons of Cairbre' sleep 
Battle-banners of the Gael that in Ciaran's plain of crosses 

Now their final hosting keep. 

And in Clonmacnois they laid the men of Teffia, 

And right many a lord of Bregh ; 
Deep the sod above Clan Creide and Clan Conaill, 

Kind in hall and fierce in fray. 

Many and many a son of Conn the Hundred-Fighter 

In the red earth lies at rest ; 
Many a blue eye of Clan Colman the turf covers, 

Many a swan-white breast. 



" WHERE, O Kincora, is Brian the Bold ?" And 
where, O modern Irishman or Irishwoman, is Kin- 
cora ! Did they teach you at school ? Not they. 
They taught you about King Alfred and the cakes, 
and how he gradually marshalled a power against the 
Danes of England and beat them in great battles. 
But were you ever taught how Brian and his Dal- 
cassians starved and lurked and lay in ambush through 
the fastnesses of Clare ? fighting and retreating, 
retreating and fighting, refusing even the truce which 
Mahon, King of Thomond, had made with the Danes 
because, said Brian, however small the injury he 
might be able to do the foreigners, he preferred it to 
peace. Yet in the old hedge schools a scholar would 
have learned how Brian's following was at last re- 
duced to a bare handful of ragged desperate men, and 
how Mahon came up himself into the wooded moun- 
tains to reason with these fanatics ; how he expatiated 
prudently on the impossibility of resisting the stark 
mail-clad foreigners, and on the folly of leading out 


armies of the Dalcais again only to leave them dead 
on the field as Brian himself had done ; and how 
Brian answered that to die was natural to all men, 
but that it was neither the nature nor the inheritance 
of the Dalcassians to submit to injury and outrage. 
And since this chapter and the two which follow it 
will be chiefly concerned with Brian and his descen- 
dants, with the Dalcais and with Thomond, and 
generally speaking with that great Munster clan 
which gave to Ireland the one true native sovereign 
of all Ireland that ever existed, it may be well at first 
to set down the traditional history of the clan and its 

Thomond, whence is it called? Not difficult 
to answer. I adapt the literary methods of the 
old chroniclers, whom with much wonder I find 
myself unconsciously imitating. For after all what 
is this book but a twentieth century Dindsenchus a 
topographical discussion of Irish history ? Thomond, 
then, is Tuath Mumhan^ North Munster, just as 
Desmond is Deas Mumhan, South Munster ; and 
the division came about, according to tradition, in 
this way. 

Oliol Ollum, who ruled over Munster from A.D. 
174 to 234 had many sons, of whom the eldest, 
Eoghan, was slain in battle. Oliol, then, with the 
consent of the tribes, named another son, Cormac 
Cas, as tanist, or successor. But it soon became 
known that on the night before his death Eoghan 
had married, and that his widow was pregnant. 


When Oliol saw a son born to his own eldest 
son he altered the arrangement that had been made, 
deciding that Cormac Cas should reign after him, 
but that on Cormac's death sovereignty should 
revert to Eoghan's elder branch ; and that thereafter 
the throne should go alternately " without quarrel or 
dispute " from the Roghanacht or Eugenian line to 
Dal CaiSy that is, the division of Cas, and from 
Dalcassian back to Eugenian again. The old king 
must have had a sanguine temper if he expected 
neither quarrel nor dispute from such a plan. 
Cormac Cas showed more prudence, for after 
succeeding to the throne he entered into an agree- 
ment with Fiachra, the son of Eoghan, for dividing 
Munster ; and thus, instead of alternate rule over the 
whole kingdom, Kerry, Cork, and Waterford became 
the Eugenian inheritance under the general name of 
Desmond, while Clare, Tipperary, and part of 
Limerick, belonged to the Dalcais. 

According to the account which has been always 
given, both Eugenian and Dalcassian were in theory 
subject to the High King who ruled either in Meath 
or in Aileach near Derry, according as the kingshi-p 
(alternating in this case also) rested with the southern 
or the northern Hy Neill. But as a matter of fact 
it has always been recognised that the Ard Righ 
exercised no sovereignty in Munster. From Leinster 
he claimed tribute. West of the Shannon his limit 
of influence was fixed by a curious political arrange- 
ment, of which the traditional story must be given 




before I enter on Mr. MacNeill's rationalising account 
of all this very ancient history. 

Conn the Hundred-Fighter, Tuathal's famous 
grandson, became King of Tara in A.D. 123. His 


contemporary on the throne of Cashel was Eoghan 
Mor (the Great), surnamed Mogh Nuada, and the 
two kings disputed with each other the sovereignty, 
till at last they decided to compromise by a partition. 
Ireland was divided into two portions, of which the 
northern was called Leath Cuinn (Conn's Half), and 
the southern Leath Mogha (Mogh's Half). For a 
natural boundary they fixed on the low ridge of gravelly 
hills which runs due west across the great central 
plain, crossing the Shannon about Clonmacnoise and 
Athlone. The Eskir Riada stretched, as the chroni- 
clers delighted to relate, from one Ford of the Hurdles 
to another, from Ath Cliath Duibhlinne to Ath 
Cliath Medraidhe ; that is, from Dublin to what is 
now Clarin Bridge at Maaree, in the flat boggy 
country which lies inland from the bight of Galway 

Let us compare this with Mr. MacNeill's theory. 
According to him, Conn was only the third ruler in 
a line of invading foreigners called Milesians, who 
had settled in the Boyne valley towards the end 
of the first century. A second settlement had estab- 
lished itself a little to the south in Kildare, and be- 
came the germ of the kingdom of Leinster. A third 
host again had landed (like the Normans) on the 
south-eastern coast, had pushed up the valley of the 
Suir to Cashel, and establishing itself there, had 
founded the Milesian kingdom of Munster which, 
on this theory, owed no natural reverence to 


Mr. MacNeill has no difficulty in showing that in 
the middle of the second century a great part of Ireland 
was still unsubdued either by Cashel or by Tara. 
Ulster was conquered by the Col las about 320 ; Clare 
was won from the Firbolgs by the Dalcassians a 
generation or two later. Yet I think that the tradi- 
tion which fixes the division of Ireland to the early 
date is probably true, for the names of Conn and 
Mogh are inseparably associated with the two halves, 
and there does not appear to be any reason for 
putting these persons later in the history. 

In the east of Ireland the arrangement never held 
good. Leinster (that is the Irish Leinster, whose 
northern boundary was the Liffey.) lay within Leath 
Mogh, but was generally subservient to Tara, and 
never to Cashel (until Brian revolutionised the whole 
set of relations). But in the West, the line of de- 
marcation stood, almost in defiance of nature ; for 
the Shannon is an ideal frontier, and Clare, though 
it should seem naturally part of Connaught, was cut 
ofF from that province by a purely political division. 
No doubt natural circumstances helped : the road north 
from the stony Burren over the bogs and woods of 
South Galway must have been hard to travel. But 
political boundaries, if they are of long duration, 
have a curiously severing effect ; and though the 
line marking Leath Cuinn from Leath Mogh is 
wholly imaginary at its western end, for the eskirs 
do not stretch so far, I have been assured by a true 
authority Mr. James Frost of Limerick, may his 



days be long in the land ! that south of the line 
people speak Munster Irish, and north of it the Con- 
naught dialect. This is the more curious, as the 
distinction is not merely of intonation or accent : a 
Munster speaker uses the older synthetic forms, as in 
bhuaileadar " they struck " ; whereas a Con naught 
man employs a pronoun and says bhuail siad. More 
than that, says Mr. Frost, people are divided socially 
by the limit ; they seldom marry across the line, for 
the man of Conn's Half is a stranger to the woman 
of Mogh's Half, almost as alien as if they lived in 
separate islands of Aran. 

I return to the political geography of Munster. 
Leath Mogh was transmitted as an undivided sove- 
reignty from the time of Eoghan Mor (Conn's con- 
temporary) to that of Cormac Cas, who ruled in 
Cashel when Cormac Mac Art was King in Tara 
say, roughly, down to 250. Mr. MacNeill would put 
it, that during this century the new Milesian power 
was spreading from the centre where Oliol (or Ailill) 
established it, and that about the middle of the third 
century it annexed a new province, so big that this 
acquisition naturally separated itself off. At all 
events, from about A.D. 250, Munster was divided 
into Desmond and Thomond, and Thomond is to-day 
represented very fairly by the diocese of Killaloe ; 
which comprises all Clare, crosses the Shannon about 
Killaloe, and, taking in the portion of county Limerick 
north-east of the city, stretches into Tipperary, 
where about the Suir it impinges on the other divi- 


sion of Leath Mogh Ormond, Oir Mumhan, or 
East Munster. 

Ecclesiastical boundaries in Ireland nearly always 
mark some ancient political division : and the posi- 
tion of Cashel as an archi-episcopal see is very signi- 
ficant. Cashel belonged neither to Eugenian nor 
Dalcassian, though Thomond stretched to its walls. It 
was the seat of the King of Munster, and in theory 
passed alternately from Eugenian to Dalcassian, and 
vice versa. In practice, for centuries the kingship 
was monopolised by the elder branch. But it was 
clearly admitted that when the Dalcassian line were 
deprived of their succession, they remained indepen- 
dent, exempt from all vassalage or tribute to the 
Eugenian King of Cashel. 

The Dalcassian kingdom itself was, after the Irish 
usage, divided up into a number of sub-kingdoms, 
or principalities, each possessed by a sept of the clan. 
Just as the clan had a common ancestor in Cormac 
Cas, so every freeman in each of the septs traced his 
descent to that one of Cormac's eight sons from 
whom his sept sprang. Eldest of these sons was 
Bloid, from whom the O'Briens came, and the chief 
of Hy mBloid was the recognised chief of all 
Dalcassians, though the land owned by this sept was 
only a district about Killaloe still defined as the rural 
deanery of Omulled. Macnamaras, Macmahons, 
O'Carrolls, or any other of the Dalcais septs, 
might on occasion levy war on their tribal chiefs ; 
but the supremacy of the O'Briens in Thomond was 

u 2 


always admitted long before they were known as 
O'Briens. For the custom of fixing definite surnames 
was an institution of the great Brian's, after whom 
the Hy mBloid have proudly called themselves from 
that day to this. 

The greatness of the Dalcais dates from one of 
the darkest days in the history of Munster. Towards 
the close of the ninth century the ravages of the 
Danes abated if they did not cease. But after more 
than a generation new hosts of the foreigners began 
to arrive, and they poured themselves with fury 
upon Munster, which hitherto had suffered less than 
the northern and central provinces. The imperish- 
able glory which rests upon Kincora is that it was 
the centre and the nucleus of a resistance to barbarous 
oppression a resistance which, spreading gradually, 
delivered first Munster and then all Ireland from 
the insatiable maraudings of a fierce and most 
formidable enemy. 

Where, then, is Kincora ? Again I say, if we 
were taught the geography of Ireland from any 
rational point of view, we should be at no loss to 
fix the site of Brian's palace and camp, set as it was 
strategically to control the valley of the lower 
Shannon. The head of the tide-way navigable 
from the sea is Limerick ; Killaloe and Kincora, 
fifteen miles up stream, mark the lower limit 
of the long stretch of level water, lake and 
river, over which galleys could pass at will up to 


Clonmacnoise, and the famous ford of Athlone. 
Posted here Kincora's rulers could control the traffic 
which came down those sixty miles of navigable 
waterway ; posted here also they were midway 
between the Danes of Limerick and the Danish 
river fleets that in Brian's early days had their will of 
the Shannon and its surrounding country. 

Brian was born at Kincora in 941 ; the Danes had 
been settled in force at Limerick from 922 onwards. 
In 964 Brian's brother Mathghamhain, or Mahon, 
became King of Cashel and was thus the legitimate 
head of all Munster ; but in those days it was not 
Irishmen who exercised the real power. I shall quote 
a passage describing the tyranny of the Danes from 
the ancient narrative entitled The Wars of the Gael 
with the Gall y which brings the whole story of 
Danish inroads down to their final defeat at Clontarf. 
A fragment of this is found in the Book of Leinster 
which was certainly transcribed, at the latest, little 
more than a century after the battle. But the actual 
composition is in all probability the work of a 
contemporary of Brian's, if not of a man who 
actually saw the slaughter of the Danes ; and I see 
no reason to doubt the opinion which ascribes its 
authorship to MacLiag, Brian's own bard. Here is 
the passage : 

" Such was the oppressiveness of the tribute and the rent of the 
foreigners over all Erin at large, that there was a king from them 
over every territory, and a chief over every chieftaincy, and an 
abbot over every church, and a steward over every village, and a 


soldier in every house, so that none of the men of Erin had power 
to give even the milk of his cow, nor as much as the clutch of 
eggs of one hen in succour or in kindness to an aged man, or to a 
friend, but was forced to preserve them for the foreign steward or 
bailiff or soldier. And though there were but one milk-giving 
cow in the house, she durst not be milked for an infant of one night 
nor for a sick person, but must be kept for the foreigner ; and 
however long he might be absent from the house, his share or his 
supply durst not be lessened ; although there was in the house but 
one cow, it must be killed for the meal of one night if the means 
of supply could not otherwise be procured. And the most fit 
person of the family was obliged to take wages the day on which 
he embarked on board ship with his lord, and he must be supplied 
with provision as if he were at home." 

Such was the oppression which the Danes were able 
to inflict " because of the excellence of their polished, 
ample, treble, heavy, trusty, glittering corslets," and 
other equipment to match. Against this oppression 
Mahon, aided by his brother Brian, rose in war, and 
" they carried off their people and all their chattels 
over the Shannon westwards, and they dispersed them- 
selves among the forests and woods " of the hilly 
country which is now Clare. " Neither had they any 
termonn " (that is, sanctuary) " or protection from the 
foreigners, but it was woe to either party to meet the 
other." At last, however, Mahon and the Danes, 
worn out with hostilities, came to a truce. But 
Brian would have none of it. He and the " young 
champions of the Dalcais " went back to war, sleep- 
ing " in the wild huts of the desert, on the hard, 
knotty, wet roots " of his own native country ; and 
he killed off the foreigners " in twos and in threes, 


and in fives, and in scores, and in hundreds " ; but in 
the constant skirmishing his own men were reduced 
to fifteen. Then it was that Mahon trysted with 
him, and when they met : " Where hast thou left 
thy followers ? " he asked. In the poem (inserted 
here in the narrative) this is Brian's answer : 

" I have left them with the foreigners 
After being cut down, O Mahoun. 
In hardship they followed me on every plain, 
Not like as thy people." 

In the debate between the two chiefs Brian 
prevailed so far as to have appeal made to the whole 
clan, whether they would have peace or war. They 
answered for war, " and this was the voice of 
hundreds as the voice of one man." Mahon stood 
loyally by this decision, but he declared for a general 
levy of Munster, in place of guerilla war. As 
King of Cashel he marched with the Dalcais into 
the Eugenian territory ; and the Eoganacht of East 
Cork, and the people of Muskerry in West Cork, 
joined his arms, and a great force was assembled at 
Cashel. But Ivar, chief of the Danes in Limerick, 
mustered forces also, and there were Irishmen found 
to help him Molloy (Maelmuadh), King of 
Desmond, which then, roughly speaking, meant 
Kerry, and Donovan, King of Carbery, which was 
West Limerick. 

When the hosts were ready and every man of the 
Dalcais who was absent as a soldier in the armies of 
some other king returned to take his part in this 


conflict they marched on each other. Mahon 
marched south-west from Cashel, down the Golden 
Vale, keeping the Galtees on his left ; and Ivar 
marched north-east from Limerick, skirting Slieve 
Phelim. The place where they met was Sollohed 
(or Sulcoit), near to where the line from Limerick 
joins the main southern rail. The fight was fierce, 
but at length the foreigners were routed, " and they 
fled to the ditches, and to the valleys, and to the 
solitudes of that great, sweet-flowery plain." The 
Dalcais did not sleep on their victory, but, pressing 
home the pursuit, " marched that night until 
morning," and with the morning captured the island 
fortress of Limerick. There, having enriched them- 
selves with its plunder, they reduced it " to a cloud of 
smoke and to red fire afterwards." The Irish had no 
esteem for walls and strong places. 

That day made Mahon king of Munster in good 
earnest, and he persevered in the work so well begun 
overawing the disaffected, and again defeating 
new bodies of the Danes who tried to regain their 
hold on Limerick. But Molloy and Donovan still 
resented the Dalcassian supremacy, and at last by 
treachery, whose details are not easy to follow, 
murdered Mahon when he was under the pledged 
hospitality of Donovan. This was in the year 976 : 
and Molloy and Donovan gained little by the 
murder, for Brian who succeeded " was not a stone in 
the place of an egg, and he was not a wisp in the 
place of a club, but he was a hero in place of a hero, 


and he was valour after valour." His first act was to 
hunt the Danes out of their strongholds in the islands 
of the Shannon : his next to defeat and slay Donovan, 
who had leagued himself with Harold the son of 
Ivar : after that, he dealt with Molloy, who perished 
in the battle to which Brian formally challenged him. 
Next pushing east from Cashel, " he ravaged and 
plundered the Desi to Port Lairge " (that is Water- 
ford) and banished their king who had forced the war 
on him. Then from his palace at Cashel he marched 
into Ossory and subdued its king, and so northwards 
into Leinster and took hostages. " Thus was Brian 
King of Leath Mogh," that is, of the southern half 
of Ireland : and thus was Munster finally delivered 
from the dread of the Danes. Yet in Waterford and 
Wexford the foreigners still maintained their settle- 
ments, living peaceably as traders, and paying Brian 
for tribute several hundred barrels, of wine each year. 
Yet Brian was not unchallenged in Munster. In 
982 perhaps when the Dalcais were invading Ossory 
Malachy or Maelseachlain, the High King, marched 
into Thomond and inflicted a deadly ignominy on 
Dalcais by rooting up the sacred oak tree, under which 
on the mound of Magh Adair (near Quin) each King 
of Thomond was inaugurated by his chief vassal, the 
Macnamara, head of Clan Cullein. Malachy was 
still flushed with his great success won over the 
Danes at Tara in 979, and it grew increasingly clear 
that there would be a trial of strength between him 
and the southern ruler. Its result must be told in 


my next chapter. I shall not trace Brian's history 
further at present, except in one detail. 

Brian ruled Munster as King of Cashel, but he 
ruled it from Kincora commanding the passage of 
the Shannon at Killaloe where a plank bridge existed. 
But he did not forget the importance of Kincora's 
position as a naval base also. Once his sovereignty 
of Leath Mogh was established he assembled " a 
great marine fleet" on Lough Derg, and took three 
hundred boats with him up as far as Lough Ree 
plundering Connaught and Meath and Brefny. Brian 
had learnt to the full from the Danes the military 
value of the Shannon, on which the stronghold of 
his race was so advantageously posted. And it is 
time to give some description of his dwelling-place. 

If you ccme to Killaloe, as it was my fortune to 
come, from Limerick by road, the approach is amaz- 
ingly dramatic. The broad valley of the Shannon, 
here running north and south, is solidly closed at the 
north by the bluff mass of Keeper Mountain. On 
your left the Clare hills, on your right the Shannon, 
draw gradually in on the road till at a point about 
half-way you see the river spanned by O'Brien's 
bridge, and realise at once that here is a place where 
great things must have happened. For the whole of 
that valley, studded with ancient castles, speaks 
eloquently of war ; and here is evidently an old pass- 
way from the mountainous regions of Clare into the 
fat lands of Limerick and the Golden Vale which 


runs up yonder past the Slieve Phelim hills to Cashel 
and Tipperary. And in truth a hundred times that 
passage was disputed ; for after the Normans had 
come, southern offshoots of the de Burgo family 
settled at Castle Connell, halfway between O'Brien's 
bridge and Limerick, and the barony of Clanwilliam 
keeps their name till this day. But the O'Briens still 
claimed part of the Castle Connell bank and tilled it 
and reaped it, crossing out of their own undisputed ter- 
ritory here on the Clareside by this main ford, though 
the reapers had to bring sword as well as sickle and 
fight against Clanwilliam for their crops. Here also 
at O'Brien's bridge, Ireton, while beleaguering Limer- 
ick, contrived to throw across a division of his army 
and to cut the city off from its supporters on the 
Clare bank. But these are stories of a later and less 
glorious day ; the memories of Kincora recall the 
earlier enemy and the more successful resistance. 

Rising from the low ground by O'Brien's bridge, 
you soon see how the river doubles to the left 
under the foot of Keeper ; and presently some high 
ground gives a first view of the massive grey tower 
rising in front and below you. Down a gentle hill 
you come into the little thick-clustering town and 
drive past the cathedral. Its decorated gateway is 
Irish Gothic, and a handsome example of it, yet 
of less interest than the tiny primitive church 
with high pitched roof of stone slabs, which stands 
in the graveyard under the shadow of the minster. 
For if there be any faith in architectural knowledge 



that little church was built not later than the tenth 
century, and therefore in that disused little building 
the greatest of all Irish kings must have knelt how 
many hundred times ! 

Our immediate errand was to Kincora, and so we 
did not stop yet to visit the churches, but drove on, 

Kincora and Lough Derg. 

past the big sluice gates with the roaring rush of 
water below them, out of the town to where the river 
opened again broad and level. At the end of the 
stretch a point jutted out, trees on it rising off what 
even from a distance could be known for an earth- 
work and there was Kincora or at least what men 
to-day call by that name. 


A little further on we opened purple vistas of 
Lough Derg beyond the tree-crowned rath. Further 
still, the road, rising now, became an avenue of 
gigantic beeches ; and to our left, on the steep slope, 
was Ballyally, one of the spacious country houses 
which played so great a part in the life of that ruling 
order, now passing away. I was told how one of its 
late owners growing old in the land where he had 
shot and fished and hunted and farmed and governed, 
and where life had gone so pleasantly with him in 
his fine house, among his beautiful plantations, look- 
ing out over that rich and varied landscape of moun- 
tain, lake, and river, of smooth water and roaring 
torrent, of heather and ploughfield and pasture lawn, 
used daily to be carried out in front of the house, 
and there spend the sunny hours repeating again and 
again and again to himself in a kind of dream, sadly 
and fondly, " O lovely Ballyally, must I leave you ? " 
Probably if I heard his name, I forget it he came 
of some alien stock, planted there on O'Brien terri- 
tory as a part of some great confiscation ; probably 
he detested worse than poison all the ideas which this 
book and books like it are written to express : but 
anyhow, God be with the old days and the old stock, 
and with any man who loved Ireland. 

I like to believe that this old lover of Ireland even 
if it were only of his own comforts in Ireland was 
no mere hunting squire, but one of the gentry who 
had the wit to value past traditions, and to whom 
Kincora was not only a shadowy name but alive with 


honourable memories. Out from his avenue he had 
only to cross the road with its overshadowing beech 
trees it was surely a lover of Ireland who so 
beautified that stretch of road and he was into the 
pasture field which makes an angle marking the 
division between river and lake. The upper part of 
the field is so level on top, so steep towards the 
lake, that a hint, at least, is given of labour spent to 
make it level to establish a parade ground for the 
warriors of Dalcais. And certainly here over this 
wide expanse of sward the young men of Brian's 
army must have swarmed out many a day, if it were 
only to drive the hurley ball towards the goal, or 
to practise their limbs in the leaping and running 
which gave these unmailed troops such swiftness and 
mobility as to make them almost impalpable to their 
enemies save in the very shock of battle. 

The fort itself approaches close to the river bank, 
and very steep the earthwork is on that side ; the 
entrance through the two enclosures is from the land- 
ward. Over against it on the left bank the mountain 
comes down, and it is easy to see why this fort was 
called in Brian's day Beal Borumha, the Gap of the 
Tribute. A finer natural toll-gate is not anywhere to 
be found. 

And remember when you are at Kincora that the 
spot is made glorious by another memory than that of 
Brian. Where Lough Derg has its outfall, the water 
is shallow, though no rock or ripple gives indication 
of a ford ; but fordable for bold riders the river is 


or was in days before sluice gates were put on to hold up 
the water. On the night when Sarsfield with his troop 

Brian's Rath at Killaloe. 

stole out of Limerick and along the Clare bank to cut 
off William's ammunition train, William with his great 


army held Castle Connell, and held O'Brien's bridge, 
and held Killaloe in force. But no stranger would 
think it needful to guard this broad stretch of water 
above the falls, and Sarsfield doubtless counted on 
that or Hogan, the rapparee, did, who guided the 
expedition. So the riders, three or four hundred of 
them, followed a track, most likely the present road 
along the Clare side, till, plunging down off the 
hill somewhere by Ballyally, they groped their way in 
the dark to Brian's old fort no bad landmark and 
out past it to the low spit of green turf where you 
can find grass of Parnassus growing ; and so into the 
black water that August night ; hock deep, shoulder 
deep, up to the very saddle-bow, but steadily splash- 
ing their way across with Hogan at the head of them ; 
and then up the far hill and away over Keeper to lie 
in wait through the next day, and, with nightfall, 
to make their swoop on Bally neety twenty miles 

Many a foray was doubtless driven across the 
Shannon in that short mile of water from where 
Shannon leaves the lake to where it deepens again 
below Killaloe ; and one would like well to have seen 
how the fierce spearmen,, wear ing their long glibs and 
saffron coats, goaded the rough cattle before them 
hastily before pursuit could come up. Yet, if I had 
the power of vision, it is that raid of Sarsfield's 
I would choose to see, with the rapparee on his long 
coated garron picking his way in front, and, close at 
his heel, one may be sure, the monstrously tall, 


handsome, good-humoured officer of James in his 
fine uniform > booted and spurred, laced and braided, 
sitting straight and easy on his big charger." 

Still, Sarsfield effected nothing ; whereas Brian 
built up, beginning here at Kincora, a monarchy 
which lasted better than most things in Ireland, and 
left a power to his descendants which English con- 
quest by no means destroyed. But, anybody will 
ask himself, although the military value of Beal 
Borumha is plain, was not that spit of land a cramped 
place for the King of Thomond to live on ? For my 
part, I am clear that the fort was merely a kind of 
barrack ; and the truth was forced in on my mind 
when we went back to look at the cathedral. The 
door was locked (after the very ungodly fashion 
which prevails in Ireland), though it was a Sunday ; 
and I had to climb a steep street to look for the 
verger. At the top, suddenly I emerged on an open 
windy square crowning the top of this low hill that 
juts out from the Slieve Bernagh range a market- 
place, of course, and what is a market-place to-day in 
an Irish country-town has been so for countless genera- 
tions. Here, beyond a doubt, I think, was the abode 
of the kings. The place was a natural rath ; and 
down at the foot of it, beside the river, rose the stone 
roof of Brian's parish church. 1 

1 The name bears out this view. Kincora is Ceann Coradh, the 
head of the weir. Now, a weir could not be where the fort is : 
but the fall at Killaloe was the most natural place in Ireland for 
a salmon trap. 



This tiny building is less than thirty feet long by 
eighteen broad, but the walls are nearly four feet 
thick ; and the two narrow lights, splayed on the 
inside, are loopholes rather than windows. The walls 
"batter," that is, converge towards the roof, and so 
do the jambs of the doorway. No one can say pre- 
cisely how old a building of this kind may be, and 
some antiquarians maintain that it is the original 
edifice founded by Saint Dalua, who gives his name 
to the town Cill Dhalua, Dalua's Church. 

The cathedral itself was built a century and a half 
after Brian's death by Donal Mor O'Brien, who ruled 
Munster in the early days of Norman invasion. 
Restoration has confused the story of the building, 
and its most remarkable feature is useless and unex- 
plained a great Hiberno-Roman doorway, now 
blocked up, in the south wall of the nave. Tradition 
makes it part of the tomb of Murtough O'Brien, the 
king who was buried here in 1120 before Donal's 
day but there is no clear evidence. At all events, 
this great door with its four orders of arches and its 
sculptured pillars ranks with the best Irish decorated 
work. Unhappily, it is ill seen in a dark corner ; 
and the cathedral itself is not well seen either. On 
the north side of the close is a small trim-kept burial 
ground, while the south of the garth is unkempt, 
deep in nettles and rank herbage, through which you 
stumble among graves. The explanation is that 
Catholics and Protestants alike bury in the church- 
yard, but the Protestants consider that their duty 


limits itself to caring for the sepulchres of their own 
folk ; while the Catholics refuse to be at trouble or 
expense in the matter, holding that those who are 
privileged to use the ancient building are bound to 
maintain its precincts in decency. 

But from outside, along by the river, the square 
heavy tower among its surrounding trees is a noble 
object ; and indeed there are not many more attractive 
places than Killaloe in its station by that superb race 
of salmon-breeding water. Happy are those that have 
the fishing of it ! For my own part, right or wrong, 
I fished it for half an hour while a sketch was being 
finished, and came away I hope not feloniously 
with as handsome a trout as you could wish to see. 
That is part of my pleasant memory of that day's 
excursion a wild day in early autumn, with lashing 
showers and glorifying sunshine between them. We 
drove back through the valley under an electric sky, 
lit by low-arched rainbows spanning Brian's gateway 
in the hills ; flying clouds made movement and colour 
everywhere ; and at last, for a final splendour, the 
spire of Limerick's new cathedral, widely conspicuous, 
showed up in brilliant relief against a smoky purple 
mass of vapour that boded thunder. And through all, 
one was conscious, even when it did not actually meet 
the eye, of what discriminates this rich pastoral scene 
from the Golden Vale or Meath's broad landscape 
the strong impetuous flow of that great river stream- 
ing from Killaloe to Limerick, the very pulse of 
Thorn ond. x 2 


Of Thomond generally some description has now 
to be given taking the name in its more restricted 
application. When the Normans came, they found 
the O'Briens no longer High Kings of Ireland, but 
still supreme in Munster. The rich cattle-breeding 
plains of Limerick and Tipperary were among the 
earliest objects of ambition for these new invaders, 
and it was the old story, repeated for many centuries 
from the time of the Danes " Linen shirts on the 
men of Ireland and armour of proof on her assailants." 
The O'Briens made a stiff fight for their inheritance, 
but they were soon driven back across the Shannon. 
Further than this, few enemies cared to follow them, 
and for centuries what is now the County of Clare 
became known as Thomond, and was their well- 
recognised principality. In a sense, it has never 
ceased to be so. 

I have adverted already to Clare's singular position 
in the history and topography of Ireland cut off 
from the rest of Munster by the Shannon, cut off from 
Connaught by a very ancient political division. It 
is probably a good deal different in blood also : for 
here was one of the Firbolg strongholds, and the 
Milesian heirs of Cormac Cas had scarcely subdued 
this older race when Patrick came to Ireland ; and 
ethnologists see many traces of a non-Milesian type 
among the people of the Burren. At all events, 
marked off as it was by barriers natural and political, 
Clare became curiously self-contained. The different 
septs who descended from the sons of Cormac Cas, 


the Macnamaras, O'Carrolls, Macmahons and the 
rest, might fight with one another, or with their 
tribe chiefs the O'Briens, but they generally stood 
together against the Norman as they had stood 
against the Dane. Nevertheless, at strategic points 
the Norman settled and built castles ; notably at 
Bunratty, where a little river's tidal creek gives a 
harbourage about ten miles below Limerick. 
Intestine bickerings of the usual kind gave them their 
first footing. In 1268 Conor O'Brien, king of 
Thomond, who had inflicted a heavy defeat on the 
English at Kilbarron, was killed in a tribal war 
against the people of north Clare (the Firbolg 
stronghold) who never recognised full kinship with 
the Dalcais. Conor was succeeded by his second son 
Brian Roe, but there were rival claimants, for Conor's 
eldest son had left a son, Turlough. Brian, at war 
from the first with the English, was soon at war 
also with a section of the Dalcais the powerful Mac- 
namara clan who backed the claims of his nephew. 
Brian Roe, driven out, appealed for help to Thomas 
de Clare, to whom Edward the First had already made 
a grant of all Thomond. It only remained for de 
Clare to get possession, and Brian helped him 
making a grant to the Englishman of the land 
between the Fergus and Limerick. De Clare at 
once set to work and built Bunratty castle. 

But the Macnamaras and the other clans with 
Turlough leading them were not idle, and they gave 
battle to De Clare's troops and defeated them. Then 


another thing followed for which Irish history affords 
many parallels. Brian Roe, who had gone to the 
English for help against Ireland, was put to death in 
Bunratty by the very men whom he had brought there. 
This was in 1277. For the rest of the thirteenth 
century the Irish under Turlough had the upper 
hand and inflicted heavy loss on De Clare at Quin, 
where the four circular towers of his castle can be 
traced, wrought into the structure of the beautiful 
Franciscan abbey it also deserted and ruined in its 
turn. But still the De Clares maintained their 
stronghold at Bunratty, and still hereditary dissensions 
among the O'Briens helped them. But at last 
crushing defeat came. In 1318 Richard de Clare, 
aided by a grandson of the Brian whom his own 
progenitor had murdered in Bunratty, crossed the 
river Fergus from Quin : but in the ford, we are told 
by Magrath, hereditary chronicler of the Dalcais, a 
strange apparition met him a woman washing 
bloodstained garments. Her name, she said, was 
Bronach (the Lamentable) and she had come to bid 
De Clare follow her. Not heeding the " washer at 
the ford," Clare pushed on to attack the O'Deas near 
the ancient monastery of Dysert O'Dea : and in the 
battle that followed he and his son fell among their 
retainers. Lady de Clare, hearing the tidings, burnt 
Bunratty behind her and fled across the Shannon, 
evacuating Thomond completely. 

For two hundred years after this Clare was dis- 
turbed only by tribal wars : and Bunratty, whose 


magnificent ruins now afford a barrack for policemen, 
was re-built in 1397 by the O'Briens as an Irish 
stronghold. The Dalcassians were learning from 
their conquerors : and in the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries English power shrank. But in 1504 was 
fought the disastrous battle of Knocktow, when Garret, 
Earl of Kildare, led the northern half of Ireland 
against the southern, and the native race shattered 
itself to pieces while the English looked on. The 
son of Turlough O'Brien, then Prince of Thomond, 
was with the defeated host, out of whose nine divi- 
sions there survived barely one. Yet even after that, 
in 1510, Turlough O'Brien and his Dalcais forded the 
Shannon at Castle Connell for Kildare had broken 
down O'Brien's bridge and routed an English army. 
Turlough's name went far in the world, for when 
Charles V. and Henry VIII. leagued themselves to 
attack Francis I. of France, the French King made a 
counter alliance with the lords of Desmond and of 
Thomond. Yet no good came of that, to France or 
to Ireland. 

Turlough's successor was Conor, and Conor's son 
Donough married with a daughter of the House of 
Ormond whose loyalty to the English throne was 
intensified by hatred for the Geraldines. Donough 
became an Ormond partisan, an ally of the English 
against his own country and people ; whereas 
his father Conor sheltered the unlucky Silken 
Thomas after the failure of his abortive Geraldine 
rebellion, and when Thomas Fitzgerald with his 


five uncles were executed in London, there was still 
an asylum in Thomond for the one Geraldine who 
escaped the boy Gerald. To the day of his death 
Conor O'Brien maintained his state and his indepen- 
dence as an Irish king. With his brother and suc- 
cessor Murrough (known as Murrough the Tanist), 
who was chosen king of the Dalcais in 1540, the 
new order begins. 

It was evident that the Irish must unite among 
themselves or submit to the vigorous policy now 
being pursued by Henry VIII. and his Ministers. 
Faith as well as patriotism should have prompted 
union ; they had not only their country to defend, 
but their religion for already the suppression of the 
monasteries had been decreed. Yet they failed to unite. 
A momentary league was formed between the northern 
princes, O'Neill and O'Donnell, and the southern, 
O'Brien of Thomond and O'Conor of Offal y. But 
the mere threat of Brereton's movement scattered 
their coalition, and next year found the O'Donnell 
leagued with the English and attacking O'Neill 
because, say the Four Masters, " he saw that the 
Irish would not yield superiority to any one among 
themselves, but that friends and blood-relations con- 
tended together." Murrough O'Brien, presumably 
from the same line of reasoning, decided to adopt 
the same course of conduct, and accepted for himself 
the style of Earl of Thomond with all the obligations 
of allegiance. Probably at the same time he and his 
conformed to the new religion. 


The resolution which the O'Brien chiefs took 
under Henry VIII. was steadily adhered to. Diffi- 
culties of reconciling succession under English law 
with the custom of tanistry and free election from 
among a family circle occasioned much bickering 
and bloodshed : but upon the whole, from the day of 
that early compact with the Tudors, the princes of 
Thomond were King's men, or Queen's men. Signs 
by, they are the only ancient royal house who 
retain to-day something of their ancient position. 
The descendants of Tyrone and Tyrconnel are van- 
ished from the land ; the MacDonnells of Antrim 
survive, it is true, but the MacDonnells were Scotch 
settlers of recent date. In Clare, which submitted 
voluntarily and by compact, the O'Briens still survive 
as lords of the soil, at least in theory : for nearly 
every landowner in Clare holds under a grant not 
from the English crown but from the O'Brien princes 
of Thomond. 

The causes of this survival are various. Through 
the first great wars of confiscation, when the Desmonds 
were despoiled, a notable affinity protected the 
O'Briens. Donough, eldest son of the last King of 
Thomond, married, as we have seen, into the Ormond 
connection. His wife was daughter to Piers Butler, 
Earl of Ossory, who had claimed to be eighth Earl of 
Ormond, until Henry VIII. bestowed the Ormond 
title on Sir Thomas Boleyn. Boleyn was son of 
Margaret, daughter of the seventh Earl of Ormond : 
he was father of Anne Boleyn, and thus Elizabeth's 


grandmother came of Ormond stock. Donough 
O'Brien's wife was therefore the Queen's near cousin, 
and Donough, from the time of his marriage, had 
sided consistently with the English interest in Ire- 
land. He had attacked and taken the O'Brien castle 
of Carrigagunnel on the Limerick shore ; and he 

The Tombstone of King Donal Mor, in Limerick Cathedral. 

had been wounded in battle against Silken Thomas 
at Jerpoint. After the death of his father Conor, 
when his uncle, Murrough the Tanist, made defini- 
tive submission to Henry, and accepted the Earl- 
dom in place of his native principality, Donough 
was reconciled with the head of his house ; and the 
two repaired together to Henry's court, where 
they were duly admitted to the peerage Murrough 
as Earl of Thomond and Baron of Inchiquin, with 


succession for his descendants to the barony : and 
Donough as Baron of Ibrickan, with succession for 
himself and his descendants to the Earldom. And 
in 1577, Donough's heir, Conor, third Earl of 
Thomond, is recognised in a letter of Elizabeth as 
her "right trusty and well-beloved cousin." Donough 
O'Brien's politic alliance with the house of Ormond 
had indeed secured to his stock a strong backing : 
and his descendants held steady to the winning cause, 
though the line of Murrough broke into rebellion 
more than once, and suffered for it. But in general 
the O'Brien clan were solid for the Crown in 
emergencies, and during the wars against O'Neill and 
Red Hugh they threw themselves actively into the 
struggle. In the battle fought at Assaroe on the 
Erne in 1597, the fourth Baron Inchiquin fell fight- 
ing under the command of his kinsman Thomond 
against the O'Donnells' army. The Inchiquin title 
had been granted to the heirs of Murrough the 
Tanist when it was decreed that the Earldom of 
Thomond should fall to Donough, son of Murrough's 
elder brother. This peerage has survived the grant 
to the elder branch, and the heads of the O'Brien clan 
to-day trace their descent to Murrough, who sur- 
rendered his kingdom, and not to Conor who died 
King of Thomond. 

Elizabeth's protection carried the O'Briens safely 
into the seventeenth century, and the confiscations 
under James were directed chiefly against Ulster. 
But in the wars which began with the rebellion of 


1641 the O'Briens were deeply concerned. The 
region of Thomond itself stood on the whole for the 
Catholic cause, and increasingly so as that cause 
defined itself as the cause of Ireland. The 
Confederate Assembly, driven out of Kilkenny, fell 
back on Ennis, the chief town of Clare ; and it is 
a notable and pathetic fact that the school opened by 
the Franciscans at Quin Abbey filled up at once 
with scholars till the number reached 800. Catholic 
Ireland, then only recently deprived by English law 
of the right to education, had not yet grown callous 
to the lack of it. Limerick, too, was a stronghold 
of the Catholic party. But the actual heads of 
Thomond, who were Protestants, and by this time 
traditional supporters of English rule, acted in no 
Irish spirit. The Earl of Thomond, a man of little 
energy, avoided taking any conspicuous part. But 
what he lacked in determination was amply supplied 
by the head of the younger branch, Murrough, fifth 
Earl of Inchiquin. This nobleman had served an 
apprenticeship to war in Italy under the Spanish 
colours : and returning to Ireland in 1639, had thrown 
himself into zealous support of Straffbrd. When the 
insurrection broke out in 1641, Inchiquin was fore- 
most amongst the leaders who fought to suppress it 
in Munster. But in England also rebellion had 
broken out, and when Charles (never lucky in his 
choice of men) refused this brilliant soldier the office 
of Lord-President of Munster, Inchiquin in anger 
threw in his lot with the Parliamentary party and 


obtained from them the coveted honour. His 
methods of warfare in the succeeding years earned 
him the name of An Tothdin, the Burner ; one of his 
chief exploits was the storm and sack of Cashel, once 
the royal stronghold of his race. But, zealous though 
he might be in repressing the rebel Irish, with the 
English rebels he would not go beyond a certain 
way. News of danger to the King threw him into 
alliance with Ormond, an alliance which affected with 
paralysis whoever embraced it. Neither caring for 
the Irish cause nor for the cause which had come to 
be that of England, Inchiquin found himself driven 
to quit his country for the Continent, where he 
served the King of France in Catalonia till his 
chequered career was marked by a new vicissitude : 
an Algerian Corsair captured him on the seas. From 
this bondage he was liberated by the intervention of 
the English Parliament, where reaction against the 
Protectorate was setting in, and Inchiquin returned 
with the Restoration, having in the interval reverted 
to the belief of his Catholic ancestors. 

The confiscations under Cromwell had made even 
wilder confusion in Clare than in the rest of Ireland. 
Cromwell's project, as every one knows, was to 
banish all the Irish west of the Shannon all lands 
owned by Catholics in the other three provinces 
being forfeited and assigned to certain adventurers 
who advanced moneys, and to soldiers in satisfaction 
of their pay. Yet since even this did not suffice, it 
was decreed that a belt of land, four miles deep, 


around the west coast from Sligo town southwards, 
and so up the north shore of the Shannon to 
Limerick, should also be ear-marked for settlement 
by Protestants. To the native or Catholic Irish 
driven out from the eastward provinces, lands were 
to be assigned in Clare or Connaught answerable to 
their previous holdings. 

Thus when the exiles from Clare returned with the 
Restoration they found a double complication. Their 
sea-bordering lands had been assigned to Protestant 
adventurers or soldiers like those of the rest of 
Ireland but their other territories had been largely 
granted to Catholics driven across the Shannon. 
Yet whoever suffered, it was not the O'Briens. The 
Earl of Thomond as a Protestant had escaped con- 
fiscation : Inchiquin returned in high favour, and was 
restored and compensated ; while another notable 
branch of the O'Briens was promoted to a title, 
which their descendants rendered illustrious for ever. 1 

At the little bay of Carrigaholt, near Loop Head 
and the mouth of Shannon, stands an ancient castle, 

1 Donough O'Brien of Dromofand, ancestor of the present 
Lord Inchiquin, was even better secured. As things fell out, he 
owed security to the fact that his father, Conor of Lemeneagh, had 
been killed in a skirmish fighting for the king. But his widowed 
mother had guarded against the other eventuality by marrying 
Cooper, captain of the Parliamentary troops who garrisoned 
Lemeneagh. Moya Ruadh, as she was called, was a woman of 
character. She is said to have killed Captain Cooper by a kick in 
the stomach administered while he was shaving. Her portrait, 
still owned by the Macnamaras (from whom she sprang), shows a 
lady with Queen Elizabeth's colouring, and heavy resolute face. 


with its tall tower more than commonly well pre- 
served. To this after the Restoration returned Sir 
Daniel O'Brien, a veteran of the wars in Ireland, 
who had actually fought for Elizabeth in his youth, 
and who in his old age had fought for Charles till 
nothing but loyalty was left him. For once justice 
was done ; the huge confiscated estates 84,000 
acres were restored, and Sir Daniel was ennobled 
as first Viscount Clare. Twenty-seven years later 
his grandson, the fourth Viscount, no less loyal to 
the Stuarts, fought at the Boyne for James, and after 
Limerick went with the regiment already known as 
u Clare's Dragoons " into the service of King Louis. 
The wide estate in Clare was confiscated and bestowed 
on Van Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, who sold it to 
three gentlemen, Burton, Westby, and MacDonnell ; 
and their descendants still keep the orange-lily 
blooming in the stony soil of West Clare. 

The history of the exiled O'Briens is not obscure. 
In 1693 Clare's Dragoons fought under Catinat at 
Marsaglia, helped to beat Prince Eugene in that 
bitter fight, but left Lord Clare dead on the field. 
His successor, the fifth Viscount, fought at both 
battles of Blenheim, shared in the victory of the 
first, and from the rout in the second cut his way 
out of the village of Oberklau. At Ramillies, two 
years later, his brigade had the same task, and not 
merely saved its own colours, but carried two hostile 
standards in triumph to Bruges. But Lord Clare 
fell as his predecessor had fallen, and the next 


Viscount was a child of seven years old. Another 
O'Brien (Murrough, who had captured the colours 
at Ramillies) was appointed to command, only, as it 
were, ad interim, till the child (already enrolled as a 
captain) should step into the place now consecrated 
to his title. He was barely of age when on Mur- 
rough's death his commission was made out as 
colonel-in-chief of the regiment. 

The young lord was allowed to visit London, and 
was presented at court by the Earl of Thomond. 
Thomond was sonless, and Clare was next in 
succession to the title ; the old Earl eagerly desired to 
devise his estates to this scion of so famous a line. 
Nothing but the question of religion stood in the 
way, it is said, for George I. was ready to overlook 
bygone politics in such a matter. It was a great 
bribe, but unavailing. Clare went back into exile 
and remained a soldier of France to whose colours 
men flocked steadily from the mountains and cliffy 
shores of Moyarta and Corcabascinn. From 1733 
onwards he was in active service ; in 1741, on the 
Earl of Thomond's death, he assumed the title by 
right of succession in defiance of the attainder ; and 
as Mareschal Comte de Thomond he commanded the 
Irish Brigade at Dettingen when George II., seeing 
how the Irish fought, cursed the laws which deprived 
him of such subjects. In 1745 the same heredi- 
tary chief commanded the Brigade at Fontenoy, 
where, to the fancy of all Irishmen then and since, 
Ireland had her brief moment of triumph, her 

ix FONTENOY 321 

desperate retaliation for the penal laws which filled 
the ranks of Clare's brigade. Has it not been 
written, and by one who has little sympathy with the 
surviving spirit of revolt in Ireland, how strange 
craft with strange sailors were seen upon the western 
sea the souls of those who fought and fell, making 
swift way, like homing pigeons, to Corcabascinn, 
that westernmost promontory of Clare. 

" Men of Corca Bascinn, men of Clare's brigade, 
Hearken, stony hills of Clare, hear the charge we made ; 
See us come together, singing from the fight, 
Home to Corca Bascinn in the morning light." 

The Clare of Fontenoy died in 1761 ; his one sur- 
viving son, the seventh Viscount, died in 1774 without 
issue, and thus the illustrious title perished. But 
George III., with a fine sense of fitness, revived it for 
the Irishman who took perhaps the most notorious 
part in the political intrigues which secured the 
passing of the Union. 

For the Union there voted Murrough O'Brien, 
fifth Earl of Inchiquin, and for him (but not, I am 
glad to say, on this account) was resuscitated a title 
of some note in the O'Brien line. He was named 
Marquis of Thomond, but also, more appropriately, 
Baron of Taplow, Hants. These honours, like 
many another creation of that date, were not long 
transmitted. On the extinction of the Marquisate 
of Thomond, it was proved that an heir to the 
barony of Inchiquin existed in the person of Sir 
Lucius O'Brien of Dromoland, whose grandfather 


and namesake had played a most honourable part in 
the establishment of Grattan's parliament, and whose 
father had registered his vote like an honest gentleman 
against the Union. Despite these progenitors the 
new Lord Inchiquin himself was a steady Tory in 
Irish politics ; but his brother, William Smith 
O'Brien, inherited from them a distaste for the 
methods of English rule which led him, after 
constitutional agitation proved barren of results, to 
project rebellion, and finally, as a kind of supreme 
protest, it seems to take the field without the least 
glimmering hope of success. Scarcely any Irish 
rebellion has been so aimless and ill-considered ; yet 
perhaps, because he had a good deal to lose and 
sacrificed it boldly, Thomond has to-day as much 
kindness for the Protestant who incurred sentence of 
ignominious death in attempting to defend the cause 
of Catholic Ireland, as for those heroes of Thomond's 
own faith who shed their blood gloriously on foreign 
battlefields fighting for alien kings. 

I have traced the history of the O'Briens, for in a 
sense it is the history of Clare. So also in his 
" Story of an Irish Sept," Dr. Macnamara, telling 
the story of his own people, tells the story of 
Thomond. The Macnamaras, for centuries chief 
men in Clare under the O'Briens, are still large land- 
owners in the county, surviving like the O'Briens as 
Protestant gentry. They had great warriors in the 
past : but I confess that the two personages among 
them who most interest me were somewhat ill-seen 


in their own day. One was Thomas, the duellist, 
known as Fireball Macnamara, whose early feats 
with the sword rivalled d'Artagnan's. In France he 
killed two antagonists one after the other before 
breakfast in a morning : a succession of these exploits 
occasioned his migration to Flanders ; and thence for 
similar causes he removed to London, where ulti- 
mately he was led into the indiscretion of highway 
robbery. " Ten ladies dressed in white satin, and 
introduced by two ambassadors," petitioned Queen 
Anne for a par-don : the other misdemeanants got 
off for the freak was all among gentlemen but 
Thomas was worse than a robber, he was an Irish 
rebel, who had served in the French army, and so he 
swung for it. They cherish in Clare (I learnt it in 
a third-class railway carriage) the tradition of his 
picturesque name for two pistols which he favoured 
Bas gan Sagart and Beal na Firinne " Death un- 
shriven " and " Truthteller." 

The poetic strain which is indicated in this waif of 
tradition shines with full lustre in another scion of 
the stock. Red Donough Macnamara, from whose 
finest poem I have borrowed the title of this book, 
came of a family which had fallen somewhat low in 
the days of the penal laws, and lived near Cratloe, 
about six miles from Limerick, where the lower hill 
slopes are still covered with remnants of the original 
forest, from which it is said a King of Thomond sent 
oak trees to William Rufus for the roofing of West- 
minster Hall. Many changes have gone over Ireland 

y 2 


since Red Donough was born in Cratloe, but the 
Macnamaras from whom he came are still there 
and still smiths, as his father was. This boy showed 
talent, and was sent abroad to get the education 
which should fit him for the priesthood ; but his 
talents were more conspicuous than his devotion, and 
about 1738 he arrived in County Waterford, an out- 
cast from the French seminary. Here, in the moun- 
tains which separate the plains of Tipperary from 
Dungarvan, he joined himself to William Moran, a 
hedge-schoolmaster, who kept a " classical academy." 
Readers of Carleton will not need to be told how 
these schools of Munster, maintained in defiance of 
the law by the peasantry and farmers, kept alive a 
real tradition of learning tinctured indeed with 
pedantry, yet genuine, and sought after like water in 
a desert. 

Moran and his colleague were both poets, and 
maintained the traditional Irish freedom of satiric 
verse with the traditional result that the lampooned 
had recourse to violence. The partisans of a libelled 
damsel burnt the school (no very elaborate structure, 
doubtless) over the pair, and they went each his own 
way to set up business in another neighbourhood. 
But Red Donough's new academy had little success, 
and he decided to emigrate. In this also, failure dogged 
him ; his ship was driven back, and the result was a 
burlesque ^Eneid, called Eachtra Ghiolla an Abhraoin, 
"the April Fool's Tale." A second attempt brought 
him to Newfoundland ; but, ever a rolling stone, he 


crossed and recrossed the Atlantic three times, and it 
was at Hamburg, in the New England Colonies, that 
he wrote his song of an exile's homeward yearning, 
Bdn-Chnoic Eireann, O ! Yet he ended his days in 
Ireland after a life of unusual length. In 1800, then, 
it is said, aged ninety, he composed a Latin elegy in 
creditable longs and shorts on the death of his com- 
peer, Teague O'Sullivan, known as Tadhg Gaodlach. 
The verses allude also to the death of an even better 
known Irish poet, Eugene O'Sullivan, Eoghan Ruadh, 
like Teague, a Kerry man, who died in 1784. Red 
Donough himself survived till 1814, a pensioner on 
the bounty of other hedge school teachers ; and with 
him died, one may say, the line of these Munster poets, 
part scholars, part pedants, part men of genius, 
Bohemians in the heart of rural life, often drunken, 
often in trouble with the priests, yet always loyal to 
the faith of nationalism who, perhaps more than any 
other force, kept heart and brain alive in the enslaved 
Catholic peasantry during the darkest and most evil 
days that their race ever went through. Swift, Moly- 
neux, Lucas, Grattan even, were barely names to Irish- 
speaking Ireland ; its prophets and teachers, its true 
leaders, when the hereditary chiefs had flown with the 
wild geese to follow fortune in strange lands, were 
these half taught randy vagabond poets of the Gael. 
Half a century ago their poems were treasured 
in manuscripts through the cottages and farmsteads of 
Ireland ; since the " national " schools have been at 
work, the language is extinct in all but the richer 


portions of the country and it was in the richer 
portions among the well-to-do farmers that the hedge 
schools were maintained ; the manuscripts are burnt 
or lost, save some few quota pars ! which the Irish 
of to-day, barely at the eleventh hour, are rescuing 
from oblivion and setting out in print with a piety 
and zeal, belated, indeed, yet better late than never. 



IT has been said already in this book that the 
ancient Irish were no builders of cities ; that the wars 
of the Irish among themselves recount no sieges of 
walled towns. Yet for three centuries before the 
Normans came to Ireland, Dublin was a town by far 
the most important in its own country and hardly 
inferior to London itself. This chapter is designed to 
present, in however brief a view, the sequence of early 
historic associations that link themselves with the 
deep central bay which breaks the straight Irish coast- 
line between the Boyne and Wexford Harbour. It is 
well to realise the configuration of this famous and 
most beautiful haven. 

Dublin looks eastward upon the sea a shallow 
sea, blue like all the seas of Ireland, yet not with the 
deep blue-green of the Atlantic ; pale rather, and 
sparkling in its lighter-toned expanses, easily passing 
into greys and silvers. The mountains which border 
it, facing the sun of morning, tend to the same lovely 
faintness, seen through a transverse mist of sunlight ; 


but they are more beautiful still when shadow 
deepens them into the full purples and greens and 
browns of evening. This mountain mass, which 
makes up the whole county of Wicklow, is the 
southern boundary of Dublin ; and a low spur of 
rock, thrust eastward from the hills into the sea and 
continued across a deep narrow sound by the rocky 
island of Dalkey, makes the southern arm of the bay. 
Dunleary (known as Kingstown since the day when 
George IV. landed here " in the promise and bloom 
of threescore " to visit " the land which he loved 
as his bride "), offers its deep water harbour on the 
inner edge of this promontory ; and from that point 
a circling sweep of low featureless shore curves north- 
ward for a matter of fourteen miles, till it meets the 
narrow sandy neck of the Howth peninsula. Howth 
itself is a landmark of extraordinary interest. All to 
the west of Dublin, and all to the north, is a plain 
stretching away westward almost dead level to the 
Shannon, and north with very slight undulations to 
the Carlingford range of hills. But here, on the 
northern limit of the Bay, is flung down this detached 
block of mountain for if clifF and rock and heather 
and bold outline can make a mountain, Howth surely 
is one, though barely half a thousand feet in height ; 
and, rising abruptly from sea and plain, it dominates 
the whole landscape. 

Thus it happens that the citizens of Dublin have 
within easy command a greater variety of beautiful 


country than is known to me near any other town. 
Inland, even if the broad pastures fill us with regret 
for a vanished population (and I fear that hunting 
men in Dublin do not weep greatly for a change 
which has brought the finest galloping ground in the 
world almost to their door), yet there is the LifFey, a 
river of beauty incredible to those who see only the 
foul ditch with its paltry flow of water between the 
quays. Northward, Howth is easily reached ; and 
from it you look across the bay to Dublin, sheltered 
under the rounded bulk of mountains, to the south of 
which there springs from ofF their long slopes the 
lovely line of those Wicklow Hills, in English speech 
called The Sugar Loaves, but in Irish Slieve Cualann. 
From greater peak to lesser peak you follow these 
delicate shapes, profiled against the sky, till the long 
serrated mass of Bray Head, dropping steeply down 
into the s.ea, carries the eye to a conclusion so perfect 
that, like some Italian landscapes, it suggests the 
thought of a deliberate artist. 

Even by night, when the hills are hidden, all the 
shore facing Dublin enjoys a noble spectacle in the 
long curving line of lights a sweep of twelve miles 
which fringes the dim water. But for the beauty 
of all beauties near Dublin, I would bring any lover 
of landscape by choice, on a clear day after rain, 
while clouds and their shadows drifted from west to 
east over a sunlit plain up on to those mountains 
which give a romantic vista to every southward- 


leading street in the city. Even in winter it is 
glorious to see from there how 

" The sounding city, rich and warm, 
Smoulders and glitters in the plain." 

But in summer, or still better, in spring, is the 
time to view central Ireland spread out immeasur- 
ably in green fields, with little wooded eminences 
conspicuous here and there among them. And on 
a lucky day, beyond that glimmering plain, whose 
greenness in the far distance seems to grow translu- 
cent, you shall see sixty miles away on the northern 
horizon the exquisite outline of the Mourne Moun- 
tains defined in purest blue, from Slieve Gullion, 
standing inland and apart, to where Slieve Donard 
plunges his roots into the sea. 

But the old chiefs of Ireland, and the Norse 
Vikings, regarding the matter from their several 
points of view, had other reasons than scenery to 
be interested in Dublin. To the Irish, Dublin itself, 
the place where the city stands, was simply Ath 
Cliath, the Ford of Hurdles, where the main road 
from Tara into Cualann (that is, Wicklow) crossed 
the Liffey. But Ben Edair, as they called Howth, 
was a place of great importance to them. Its name 
recurs constantly in the Ossianic poems as a favourite 
hunting-ground for Finn and his companions ; and in 
the Colloquy of the Ancients (the oldest collection of 
Ossianic stories), it is not only a place where Finn 
musters his battalions, but it is the regular port of 

x HOWTH 331 

entry and departure for central Ireland. There the 
King of Thessaly's son lands to run a wager for the 
tribute of all Ireland ; and there we read that one of the 
Tuatha de Danann undertook to have a ship always 
in readiness to carry Finn's messengers or champions 
whatever road they might choose. Story tells, too, 
that the cromlech in Lord Howth's demesne 
covers Aideen, the wife of Oscar, who died of grief 
when Oscar fell with the rest of the Fianna at 
Gabhra. She has another monument in Ferguson's 
noble poem " Aideen's Grave " ; the verses there put 
into the mouth of Oscar's father, the ancient Ossian, 
are worthy to rank with what has been best written 
in the native Irish on these legendary themes. 

But we come nearer to ascertained history when we 
touch the tradition which links Howth with the 
name of Crimhthann or Criffan. Where to-day the 
Bailey Lighthouse stands, on the south-east point of 
the peninsula, occupying the summit of a rock sheer 
to the seaward, and joined to the main hill only by a 
narrow passage of rock, was once a king's strong- 
hold Dun Criffan, a round fort secure on this 
jutting eyrie. 1 But these are far off and fugitive 
memories. It is not for nothing that the Danish 
name Hovud supplanted Ben Edair, just as in Dalkey 

1 There were two Crimthanns in the list of Irish Kings, and 
the lord of Dun CrifFan is dated about A.D. 10. The other, a- 
more historic personage, was a Milesian and preceded Niall of the 
Hostages. The name (softened into Crimhthann) survives as 


the Danish " ey " replaced the Irish " innis " of 
Dealginnis-Thorn Island. The Danes created that 
strong centre of life which grew, and in a very 
short period, to be the metropolis of Ireland. Irish 
historians have dwelt too much on their ravages 
and too little on the service which they rendered as 
founders of cities. 

Their ravages, as I have noted already, were not 
wholly without excuse, though the terrible reprisals 
which they made struck Christendom in regions 
guiltless of any wrong to their race. The lands 
which lay nearest suffered first ; in 787 they were 
on the north-east coast of England pillaging 
Lindisfarne, a Northumbrian offshoot of Irish 
Christianity. Then, working round the north of 
Scotland and establishing themselves in the outer 
Isles, they felt their way towards Ireland. In 795 
they burned Rechru or Rathlin, off Fair Head ; three 
years later they pushed further down the Channel 
and harried St. Patrick's Island with its small 
monastic colony off the Leinster coast. These 
earlier raids were directed against the outlying island 
settlements where the Saints of the Third Order had 
established anchoritic communities. In Inishmurray, 
off Mayo, on the Skelligs at the mouth of Dingle 
Bay, they plundered those hermits whose stone bee- 
hive cells are still there, a witness to the strange 
austerities of that pursuit of holiness. In 812 and 
813 they pushed inland, entering Roscommon and 
Mayo : the seats of religion, their chief objects of 


attack, were the more defenceless because a judgment 
given in 804 had exempted all clerics from the duty 
of bearing arms, which previously had been imposed 
on them. In 819 Howth was plundered, and also 
the little shrine on Ireland's Eye ; in 824 the 
foreigners spoiled all Meath. It would be tedious to 
give the details of all their maraudings. But in 832 
the mischief took a graver form. The Danish king 
whom Irish annalists name Turgesius organised 
plunder into a definite plan of conquest, and, strik- 
ing first at the very seat of Irish Christianity, sailed 
up the Bann, established a fleet on Lough Neagh and 
seized Armagh, where he himself held court in the 
shrine of Patrick. Meanwhile another fleet, acting 
under his orders, was at Dundalk, and yet another 
on the Shannon. Posts were established by him at 
Dublin, at Limerick, and at Carlingford ; and vessels 
which were worked up the Shannon to Lough Ree 
gave him a centre of power in the very heart of 
Ireland. Ota, his Queen, was established on the 
altar in Clonmacnoise, desecrating the great western 
centre of Christianity as Turgesius himself had pol- 
luted that in the North. 

Who this man was is something of a problem, for 
the name is found only in Irish annals. But the 
conjecture of Mr. Halliday (from whose book, The 
Danish Kingdom of Dublin, most of my knowledge 
is derived) identifies him with Ragnar Lodbrog, who 
perished in Ireland in 845. This date is fixed from an 
Icelandic source, and Irish annals give the same year 


as that in which Turgesius ended his ravages, defeated 
at last and drowned in Lough Owel near Mullingar 
by an Irish prince. Halliday's theory of the name 
makes Turgesius a Latinising of Thorgils, that is 
" the servant of Thor " ; as if Ragnar, coming to 
Ireland and seeking to establish a pagan kingdom in 
the very shrines of Christian power, styled himself 
expressly " Thor's man." 

At all events, to Turgesius, whoever he was, is 
due, I think, the foundation of Dublin. The 
foreigners built a castle there to command the 
Hurdle Ford on the rising ground where Dublin 
Castle stands to this day ; and they occupied the 
territory about the bay and northward which still is 
known as the barony of Fingal. The Fionn-Gaill, 
or Fair-haired Foreigners, were the Norse, or 
Lochlannaigh, as distinguished from the black-haired 
Danar, or Dubh-Gall ; and shortly after the death 
of Turgesius the settlement of the Fionn-Gaill at 
Dublin was sharply attacked by the Dubh-Gaill. 
Similar wars recurred till, in 852, Amlaf, son of the 
King of Lochlann, " came to Ireland and all foreign 
tribes submitted to him," and he " had rent from 
the Irish." This Amlaf was Olaf the White, son of 
Inguald, a descendant of Ragnar Lodbrog ; and the 
main settlement of Danish (or rather Norse) power 
in Dublin may be dated from his advent. Certain 
things must be understood about it. 

In the first place, the settlement was not wholly 
against the will of the Irish. Amlaf 's successor, Ivar, 


was closely allied to Cearbhall (Carrol), King of 
Leinster so closely that, on Ivar's death, Cearbhall 
succeeded to headship of the Danish colony ; and 
when Iceland was first settled from Norway, about 
870, sons of Cearbhall's daughters were among the 
first settlers. By such alliances Ireland became almost 
a part of the great seafaring community which 
dwelt along the shores of the Baltic, and flung its 
outposts and its conquering expeditions far south and 
north ; and the relation was not all one of loss for 
the Irish. For merchant voyages alternated with 
viking cruises, and these Danish strongholds were 
centres of commerce and of craftsmanship. The 
saga of Olaf Tryggsvi's son, tells how Thorer " went 
on a merchant voyage to Dublin as many were in the 
habit of doing " ; and indeed it seems that almost 
every King of Norway visited this seat of an allied 

And, let it be understood again, the Danish 
kingdom of Dublin in the ninth century was not 
limited to Ireland. The men who ruled there 
governed a territory in England which stretched from 
the Humber to the Scotch border, and had York for 
its local capital. Naturally, such a kingdom tended 
to break apart, and I do not suppose that Cearbhall 
governed more than the Dyflynarskiri, or Danish 
kingdom in Ireland, which stretched from Arklow, in 
the south of county Wicklow, to Skerries, in the north 
of county Dublin. On Cearbhall's death, Flann, High 
King of Ireland, claimed to succeed him, but the 


foreigners were too strong for Flann. Yet after the 
death of Godfrey, who died in 896, king both 
of Northumbria and Dublin, the Irish rose against 
the foreigners and drove them out of Dublin, first to 
Ireland's Eye (the craggy islet near Howth), and 
thence to Britain. 

Thus the end of the ninth century saw an ebb in 
the Danish power : and Irish tradition speaks of forty 
years' repose. But events soon determined a new 
conquest of Dublin. The Irish were preoccupied as 
usual by internecine war : Flann the High King with 
allies invaded the territory of Cormac MacCullinan, 
King of Cashel : Cormac retaliated successfully ; but 
in 908 a great battle, fought at Ballaghmoon, near 
Carlow, ended in desperate loss to the Munstermen, 
and the death of Cormac, king and scholar. Whik 
Ireland was thus weakening herself, the Norse were 
gaining strength yearly, and in 910 the cession of 
Normandy by the French King to the invaders 
liberated a host of fighting men. Seeking plunder 
wherever they could find it, they raided Scotland and 
Wales, and finally descended on Waterford. In 
Ulster the foreign settlements had still maintained 
themselves at Strangford and Carlingford (names which 
keep the memory of those settlers, ousting the Irish 
Lough Cuan and Snamh Eidheamh) ; and in 912 
Sitric, the son of Godfrey, setting out from his 
Northumbrian kingdom, recovered Dublin, and sent 
a fleet to reinforce the descent upon Waterford. 

The Irish did not submit tamely to this new 


defeat. Niall Blackknee, High King, mustered an 
array on the slope of the Dublin hills, and en- 
couraged his men with a prospect of spoiling the 
Norse of their armour : 

" Whoever wishes for a speckled shield-boss and a sword of sore- 
inflicting wounds, 

And a green javelin for wounding, let him go early in the morning 
to Ath Clfath." 

But it fell out otherwise : 

" Fierce and hard was the Wednesday 
On which hosts were strewn under the feet of shields ; 
It shall be called till Doomsday 
The fatal morning of Ath Clfath." 

So says a poem quoted by the Four Masters, and 
their prose account makes it clear that Niall had 
mustered Eastern Ireland from the Wicklow hills 
to Lough Neagh and Belfast. For besides Niall 
Blackknee himself and Conor, son of McLoughlin, 
heir to the throne of Ireland, there fell also Aedh, 
King of Ulidia, that is county Down ; the lords 
of Oriel, and of South Oriel, which together would 
include Armagh, Monaghan and Louth ; and the 
lords of Magh Breagh and South Breagh, which cover 
the country from the Boyne to Dublin and Bray. 
" The battle of Ath Cliath, that is of Cillmosamhog 
by the side of Ath Cliath," was fought on the 
iyth of October, 919 ; and no defeat so notable had 
yet been inflicted by the foreigners on the Irish, who 
indeed had never before offered anything so like a 
national resistance. In the grounds of Glen South 



well, high up on the slope of Kilmashogue mountain, 
there stands a cromlech on a lawn of green turf and 
bracken ; and I see no reason to dispute the tradition 
that this marks the graves of those kings who fell on 
" the fatal morning of Ath Cliath." But in any case, 
over those green pastures, across the bright running 
little stream, up into the hollow of the glen, battle 
must have raged that day till the speckled bosses of 
the Danish shields and their swords of sore-inflicting 
wounds got the mastery at last. 

But while the Danes were re-establishing their 
power in Dublin, Northumbria was slipping from 
them to Athelstane. In 926 Godfrey, Sitric's suc- 
cessor, vainly endeavoured to reassert that sove- 
reignty : in 938 Amlaf Cuaran repeated the attempt, 
and was finally defeated at Brunanburg, whence, as 
the saga tells (in Tennyson's rendering), the Norse- 
men fled, a 

" Blood-reddened relic of 
Javelins over 

The jarring breaker, the deep sea billow, 
Shaping their way toward Dyflyn again, 
Shamed in their souls." 

Thus ended the rule of Northern England from 
'* Dyflyn." Amlaf Cuaran marks an epoch other- 
wise, for he became a Christian, and Irish annalists 
date the general conversion of the Danes at 948. 
Moreover, Amlaf brings us into touch with the hero 
of Clontarf, for he was the first husband of Gorm- 
flaith, the Kormlada of Icelandic saga. Gormflaith's 


second husband was Maelseachlain, or Malachy, High 
King of Ireland, who parted from her ; her third 
was Brian of the Tribute and Brian also put her 
away. The Irish annalist relates that it was said of 
Gormflaith that " she took three leaps no woman 
should take a leap at Dublin, a leap at Tara, and 
a leap of Cashel " marrying, that is, three kings in 
succession, and each greater than the one before. 
But the Icelandic Nial-saga says curtly, yet not 
churlishly, that " she was the fairest of all women, and 
best gifted in everything that was not in her power, 
but she did all things ill over v/hich she had any 

Before I begin to sketch the events which brought 
Gormflaith and her three husbands as protagonists on 
the stage on that momentous day at Clontarf Amlaf, 
indeed, not in person, yet represented by his son 
some sketch must be given of the seat of that power 
which Brian finally curbed, after it had threatened to 
master all Ireland. 

In the first place, physically, it is a little hard to 
rea-lise the original Dublin so much of the present 
city has been built up on land reclaimed from the sea. 
The germ of the city was a fortress over the ford, 
Ath Cliath still marked by the Castle. Dubh Linn, 
the black pool, where the Danes beached their ships, 
was below this ford at the point where the Poddle 
stream falls into the Liffey a watermark only distin- 
guishable at low tide, for the Poddle is now merely a 

z 2 


covered sewer. A mile lower down, on the same bank, 
the Dodder flowed in, and the triangular point of low 
land, enclosed between the Dodder and the Liffey, was 
from Danish times, for centuries onward, known as 
the Steyne. 

It has to be remembered that embankment and 
reclamation have altered a main feature ; and probably 
the unconfined tide did not go beyond the Hurdle 
Ford and the old bridge (west of the Four Courts). 
I picture to myself a clean bright salmon stream, with 
low banks, flowing gaily to a shallow somewhere 
opposite the Castle, and receiving below that a little 
affluent from under the rough walls most likely of 
wood which encircled the Danish stronghold. At 
this meeting of the waters would be a strong race and 
a pool, making a noble lodge for fresh run fish just 
up from the tide. The Danish boundary inland was 
marked (according to the Scandinavian usage) " as far 
as the salmon swims up stream," and the Leixlip fall 
made this terminus ; though undoubtedly in those 
days the " lax " (or salmon) was as well able to leap 
the barrier as he is to-day. 

The Steyne, lying seaward from the fort, would be 
such an expanse of short-growing sward, with boggy 
patches here and there, as all fishermen are familiar 
with about the mouth of salmon rivers. This tongue 
of land was marked by a big standing stone and one 
or two raths of which there is left no trace, for the 
bulk of that space is now covered by the College 
precinct and Westland Row Station. Probably, in 


deed, the College grounds comprise most of all that was 
not sea and slob alternately. On the other side of the 
Steyne, tide- water came up almost to what is now 
Merrion Square. But between College Green and 
Stephen's Green, near the churchyard of St. Andrew's, 
there rose, in those days, a notable mound, some forty 
feet high a natural tumulus. Here the Danes, 
after their custom, held assembly in the open ; for 
this was the " Thingmote " of Dublin only levelled 
in the seventeenth century when building space began 
to be of value. The sharp little rise from Dame 
Street to Suffolk Street indicates where it stood. 

On the north bank of Liffey there was probably 
no town at all, but the whole of this country was 
grazed by the herds of the foreigners. Due west of 
Dublin, at Clondalkin, the Danes established a fort 
in the early days of their power, doubtless to guard 
against raids of the Irish. But they were oftener the 
attackers than the attacked. 

It must not be supposed that their power was con- 
fined to Dublin, or even to the seaport towns. They 
left their impress far and wide through the country, 
and to-day if you ask what race made this or that 
old rath or subterranean dwelling the answer will be 
always " The ould Danes," or (if in Irish) Na 
Lochlannaigh. It is notable, too, that we use Danish 
forms of the names of three provinces, Ulster, Mun- 
ster, and Leinster ; the termination " stadr," mean- 
ing " place " or " region," is tacked on to the Gaelic 
form Ula-ster, Muwan-ster, Leighean-ster. This 


is probably due to the fact that the Norman-English, 
when they came, found intercourse much easier with 
those other Norsemen of the Danish kingdom than 
with the native Irish. 

Two of the names which come to us from the 
Danish occupation help us to realise the organised 
power that ruled in Dublin. Wicklow and Arklow 
were points where a " lue," lowe, or beacon blaze 
was ordained to be kept alight as a guide to shipmen. 
But for anything like a full idea of the men who held 
so much power in the Ireland of that day the men 
whose comrades and kin had won Normandy, and 
whose descendants were to conquer England it is 
necessary to read the sagas : where you find them 
quarrelsome, bloody, treacherous, yet infinitely brave, 
and in a strange manner mingling respect for law 
with the greatest disregard for life. They were the 
terror of Europe ; and it needs no other testimony 
than their own to show that the greatest defeat which 
befel them was inflicted by Irishmen at the very seat 
of their kingdom. 

I have sketched in my last chapter the victory of 
Sollohed, Brian's rise to the sovereignty of Munster, 
and his subjugation of the Danes in southern Ireland. 
Not less conspicuous was the success that Malachy, 
King of Meath, won over the foreigners at Tara in 
979. From the field he marched straight on Dublin, 
which he captured probably as Brian captured 
Limerick, more by surprise than regular siege, for the 
Danish walls seem always to have defied assault if 


adequately defended. After taking great booty 
Malachy issued proclamation, " Every one of the 
Gael who is in the territory of the foreigners in ser- 
vice and bondage, let him go to his own territory in 
peace and happiness." Thus, say the Four Masters, 
ended the Babylonian captivity of Ireland. Amlaf 
(or Olav) Cuaran fled from Dublin to a Christian 
penitence in lona ; and it is a fair conjecture that his 
wife Gormflaith was part of the prize of victory. At 
all events Malachy then, or at some other time, 
married her, and at some time put her away. 

But the important fact is this : Malachy did for 
Leath Cuinn what Brian had done for Leath Mogha ; 
and it is notable that the author of the Wars of the 
Gael with the Gall does no justice to this great vic- 
tory. For the writer, whether MacLiag or another, 
was Brian's partisan and in no way inclined to rate 
highly Malachy's services to Ireland. 

In the eighteen years which followed the battle of 
Tara, Malachy and Brian were intermittently at war. 
But at last in 998 they came to rational agreement, 
and, after a meeting on the Westmeath shore of 
Lough Ree, agreed that Malachy should be undis- 
puted sovereign of Leath Cuinn and Brian of Leath 
Mogha ; and that their united efforts should be 
directed against the Danes. Two years later this 
bore fruit ; the men of Leinster inclined to rebel 
against Brian who was doubtless levying unsparingly 
the tribute which had been originally due to Meath 
and they leagued themselves with the Danes, always 


more or less allied to Leinster. Brian, accompanied 
by Malachy (whose honour is again omitted by 
MacLiag), met them at the western base of the 
Wicldow hills, near Dunlavin, the seat of Leinster 
kings ; and in the pass of Glenmama the Danes 
were utterly defeated. Maelmordha, son of the King 
of Leinster, was caught hiding in the branches of a 
yew tree, and was pulled out of it by Murrough, 
Brian's son, chief champion of the Dalcais. The 
enemy was pursued into Dublin, and " killed, de- 
stroyed, exterminated, enslaved, bondaged. So that 
there was not a winnowing sheet from Ben Edair " 
(that is Howth) " to Tech Duinn " (a rock off the 
Kenmare river in Kerry) " that had not a foreigner in 
bondage in it, nor was there a quern without a foreign 

Brian remained in Dublin " from Great Christmas 
to Little Christmas " (that is, to February ist) of the 
millennial year 1000, and Sitric, king of the Danes, fled 
north, seeking asylum from the northern Hy Neill 
Aedh, king of Ailech, between Lough Foyle and 
Lough Swilly, and Eochaidh, king of Ulaidh, that is, 
North-East Ulster. But Brian's messengers followed 
him, and shelter was refused, so that after quarter of 
a year he " came into Brian's house and submitted to 
Brian's own terms, and Brian restored his fortress to 
him." Brian did more. He gave his daughter to 
this Sitric, who was the son of Amlaf Cuaran by 
Gormflaith ; and, probably as a means to strengthen 
the same bond, he himself married Gormflaith. Brian 


was preparing for the blow which he struck .two 
years later. In 1002 he marched " a great expedi- 
tion of all Leath Mogha, both Gael and Gall," until 
they reached Tara of the Kings ; there, Brian, with the 
host of southern Ireland and the Danes of Cork and 
Waterford behind him, demanded hostages of Mai achy 
claiming, that is, the High Kingship for himself. 

In this claim he had nothing but force to justify 
him. Just as the sovereignty of Cashel alternated (in 
theory at least) between the Eoghanacht of Desmond 
and the Dalcassians of Thomond, so for centuries the 
title of Ard Righ had gone alternately to the Clan 
Colman, or southern descendants of Neill who ruled 
Meath, and to the Cinel Eoghain, or Hy Neill of 
Ailech and Ulaidh. Malachy demanded time for an 
appeal to Ireland against Brian's usurpation. He 
asked a month " to muster Leath Cuinn " ; and 
Brian conceded it, remaining in Tara under pledge to 
do " no destruction nor trespass." I have noted 
already this proof that, though Tara had been aban- 
doned in consequence of Ruadan's curse for more than 
four centuries, it retained its symbolic association of 

Malachy sent northward his ambassador a poet, 
not from his own court but of the north who went 
to Aedh O'Neill at Ailech and incited him in a long 
poem to join Malachy and give battle to Brian. 
" 'Tis a shame to have old Temhair dragged to the 
West," he cried, urging Aedh " to restore Leath 
Cuinn to its right," and " bring a wave of woe upon 


Brian." But Aedh answered curtly that when the 
northern Hy Neill had Tara, they defended it them- 
selves. Then Malachy came in person and was offered 
help only on condition that he would surrender half 
Meath to the northern branch ; and in anger he 
returned home and rode to Brian's tent " without 
guarantee or protection beyond the honour of Brian 
himself and the Dalcais," and made his submission. 
Brian answered that since Malachy had come so 
boldly and frankly, a year's respite should be given. 
And accordingly in 1003 Brian met Malachy at 
Athlone and received his hostages, and on the same 
day took hostages from all Connacht. He claimed 
and took hostages from Ulster also ; in 1004 he 
made his famous march through Ireland. 

Starting from Kincora, his route was " through the 
middle of Connacht and into Magh Ai " (that is, 
Roscommon) ; " over the Curlew mountains " (near 
Boyle) ; " and into Tir Aillel " (that is county Sligo) ; 
" and into the country of Cairpre and beyond Sligo, 
and keeping his left hand to the sea and his right 
hand to the land, and to Ben Gulben, over the 
Duff and over the Drowes, and into Magh-h-Eine " 
(about Bundoran) ; " and over Ath Seanaigh at 
Assaroe " (Ballyshanny ford) ; " and into Tir Hugh " 
(that is, South Donegal) ; " and over Barnesmore 
Gap and over Fearsed " (the ford at Strabane) ; " and 
into Tyrone and into Dalriada " (the Route, in 
North Antrim) ; " and into Dalaraidhe " (the Slemish 
country) ; " and into Ulaidh " (county Down) ; 


" until about Lammas he halted at Belach Duin " 
which O'Donovan thinks is the Gap of the North 
above Dundalk. It must anyhow have been near 
the sea ; for when Brian dismissed the men of Erin, 
" the Leinstermen went over Bregha " (the plain 
north of Dublin) " southward, and the foreigners 
over the sea to Ath Cliath and Port Lairge " (Water- 
ford), " and to Limerick ; and the Connacht men 
through Meath westwards to their homes." 

It was in the course of this royal progress that 
Brian visited Armagh, as has been told ; and from 
this journey the historians date the golden decade 

" From Tory to pleasant Cliodhna, 
And carrying with her a ring of gold 
In the time of Brian the white-skinned, the fearless , 
A lone woman made the circuit of Erin." 

Brian was busy in those days building up 
civilisation, erecting churches, making bridges and 
causeways, strengthening fortifications in Cashel and 
other places. More notable still and remember 
that this is quite probably a contemporary account 

"Hi sent professors and masters to teach wisdom and know- 
ledge ; and to buy books beyond the sea, because their writings and 
their books, in every church and in every sanctuary where they 
were, were plundered and thrown into the sea by the plunderers 
from the beginning to the end ; and Brian himself gave the price 
of learning and the price of books to everyone separately who went 
on this service." 

Trouble arose finally out of the very alliance 
through which Brian had so carefully built up his 


power. The key of that alliance was Gormflaith, 
Brian's wife, mother of Sitric the Dane, and sister to 
Maelmordha, king of Leinster. The story tells how 
Maelmordha set out to convey three masts of pine 
of the trees of three districts of Leinster, as tribute 
to Kincora. But in a boggy place of the mountain 
the king himself put his hand to one mast, and in 
his exertions he burst a silver button off the gold- 
bordered silken tunic which Brian had given him 
such a gift as monarchs made to their vassals. 

" Now when they arrived at Cenn Coradh the King took off his 
tunic, and it was carried to his sister to put a silver button on it. 
The Queen took the tunic and cast it into the fire, and she began 
to reproach and incite her brother because she thought it ill that he 
should yield service or vassalage." 

Such incitement was easily listened to among the 
Gael. Next morning an open quarrel broke out 
while Murrough, Brian's son, was playing chess ; for 
Maelmordha stood by advising his opponent, and 
counselled a move which defeated Murrough. The 
Dalcassian was quick with a taunt : ** It was you that 
advised the Danes at Glenmama when they were 
defeated." " I will give them advice again and they 
shall not be defeated," rejoined Maelmordha. 
" Have the yew tree made ready," was the fierce 
retort of Murrough, recalling his own triumph and 
Maelmordha's ignominy. The Leinster prince in 
anger " retired to his bedroom without permission, 
without taking leave " (note the hint of courtly cere- 
monial here). Brian, hearing of the dispute, foresaw 


what would happen and sent messengers to detain 
Maelmordha " until he should carry away with him 
cattle and pay." But the messenger only " overtook 
him at the end of the plank-bridge of Cill Dalua on 
the east side, and he was mounting his horse there." 
Words arose, and Maelmordha "gave the messenger 
a stroke of a yew horse-switch, and broke all the 
bones of his head." 

The detail of all this, with its interesting glimpse 
of life at Brian's court, seems certainly to suggest an 
author in Brian's household, and I believe in Mac- 
Liag. Who would have troubled to invent what is 
duly given the stages in Maelmordha's journey 
northwards to the house of the king of East Liffey 
where the nobles of Leinster assembled, and were 
incited by him to rise against Brian ? 

Revolt broke quickly and was directed chiefly 
on Meath. The northern Hy Neill plundered 
Malachi's country and O'Rourke of Brefny did the 
same. Malachy retorted with a raid into Fingal, 
plundering up to Ben Edair ; but Maelmordha with 
Sitric and his Danes cut off one of the ravaging 
parties, and the foreigners and the Leinstermen then 
raided as far as to Fore Fechin in Westmeath. 
Malachy appealed to Brian, not in vain. Up through 
Ossory and Leinster the host of Munster, led by 
Murrough, carried fire and sword into the very heart 
of the Wicklow mountains till they reached "the 
community of Caimhghen," St. Kevin's monastery at 
Glendalough. No one seems to have resisted, and 


Murrough pushed on to Dublin and sat down at 
Kilmainham " on the green of Ath Cliath." There 
Brian with another army joined him. But though 
they were encamped " from the festival of Kiaran in 
harvest to great Christmas " they could make no 
impression on the defenders of Dublin, and lack of 
provisions drove them home. 

But on both sides it was understood now that 
matters must be settled definitely, and Brian 
mustered a great expedition to take the field with the 
first of spring, about St. Patrick's Day. The Danes 
on their part were not idle. Gormflaith, now openly 
on their side and directing their preparations, sent 
her son Sitric to the Orkneys to get Earl Sigurd's 
assistance, which the Earl only promised on condition 
that Gormflaith's hand should be pledged to him in 
marriage, and the kingship of Ireland if he won. 
This was conceded. Then Sitric sailed to the Isle of 
Man where lay two vikings, Broder and Ospak. 
Broder made the same conditions, and Sitric made 
the same promise thinking doubtless that after the 
fight there might not be so many claimants for 
Gormflaith. Broder had been a mass deacon but was 
now become " God's dastard," and like every 
renegade priest he had magic powers. But his 
brother Ospak (the Icelandic story tells) refused to 
fight against so good a king as Brian, and, eluding 
Broder's attempt to destroy him, sailed for Ireland, 
and was with Brian's forces on the great day. 

It was a wonderful muster. I quote from Sir 


George Dasent's preface to his famous version of 'The 
Saga of Niair s Burning a description of the 
auxiliaries who came over seas to Dublin. 

" Along with the great Orkney Earl came a great gathering of 
his chiefs and followers, called to the war from every island on the 
Scottish main from Uist to Arran, beaten blades who had followed 
the descendant of Thorfinn the skull-splitter in many a roving 
cruise half heathen, half Christian men, who trusted perhaps to 
the sign of the cross on land, and to Thor's holy hammer on ship- 
board. . . . Along with their island levies came many Icelanders 
of the best blood in the land. Flosi would have gone himself, but 
the Earl would have none of his company, as he had his pilgrimage 
to Rome to fulfil, but fifteen of the Burners went to the fray, and 
Thornstein, Hall of the Side's son, and Halldor, son of Gudmund 
the powerful, and many other northern champions of lesser note." 

"On the side of Brian " he goes on " was arrayed 
the whole chivalry of Ireland, except those parts 
which owned the sway of Scandinavian conquerors." 
It is the pity of the world it was not so. On that 
day Brian got no help from Ulster, which province 
had never thoroughly recognised his sovereignty. 
From Connacht came perhaps O'Rourke's forces, cer- 
tainly those of Hy Many. Malachy was there with 
the host of Meath, but what part Malachy took in 
the action is a question hard to settle. The brunt 
of the battle was borne by Brian's own Munster men 
and their allies the southern Danes. Leinster, of 
course, under Maelmordha, was with Sitric a cir- 
cumstance over which good Irishmen still distress 
themselves. One said to me once : " I may tell you 
a thing I would not tell everybody. The " 


(naming his own sept) " were on the wrong side 
at Clontarf. But," he said with fine emphasis, " they 
were on the right side ever since." I suppose no- 
where in Europe is the sense of historic continuity 
stronger than among us : and long may it be so. 

The accounts of the battle vary in detail. The 
War of the Gael with the Gall recounts that "when 
the foreigners saw the conflagration in Fine Gall and 
the district of Edar they came against them in Magh- 
n-Elta." Other stories say that the Danes of pur- 
pose postponed the battle till Good Friday, since 
Broder had prophesied that if they fought on that 
day Brian would fall. But at all events the battle 
was fought on Good Friday, April 23rd, 1014. The 
Danish host was divided into the battalion of Dan- 
markian allies, headed by Broder and Sigurd ; the 
battalion of the Dublin Danes under Sitric ; and the 
battalion of Leinster, headed by Maelmordha. On 
Brian's side were, first and foremost, the Dalcais, led 
by Murrough and by Murrough's son Turlough. 
After them came the battalion of Desmond from 
Kerry and West Cork ; the men of the Decies and 
East Munster under their kings ; the battalion of 
Connaught led by O'Heyne and O'Kelly of Hy 
Many ; and " the ten great stewards of Brian with 
their foreign auxiliaries," for Danes fought for Brian 
no less than Irishmen fought against him. On the 
field also was Malachy with the host of Meath, and 
whatever part they played at first there is no doubt 
that when fortune had declared itself, they u destroyed 


the Danes from the Tolka to the ford of Ath Cliath 

The little river Tolka which flows into the bay 
about a mile north of the Liffey is our one positive 
landmark for locating the fight, as we know that Tur- 
lough was drowned " at the weir of Clontarf." Behind 
this, by Artane and Killester, was wood ; and prob- 
ably the space of ground covered was not great, for 
it was a hand to hand encounter of footmen. Un- 
luckily the Irish description of the battle is in the 
extreme bombastic manner, an attempt to render not 
facts but emotions. It seems that the Leinster men 
for Sitric and the host of Brefny for Brian were 
opposed, and fully occupied with each other ; the 
people of Hy Many and Connacht proper dealt with 
the Danes of Dublin ; but the true pith of the battle 
was the encounter between Dalcassian and Dan- 

Earl Sigurd had his banner made by his mother, 
who was a wise woman, and had told him " I ween 
it will bring victory to them before whom it is borne, 
but speedy death to him who bears it." The banner 
was made " with mickle hand-cunning and famous 
skill. It was made in raven's shape, and when the 
wind blew out the banner, then it was as though the 
raven flapped his wings." So the Orkney saga tells. 
Man after man bore it and fell, and at last Sigurd 
called to Thorstein. " Bear thy own devil thyself," 
answered Thorstein ; and Sigurd took the banner 
and met his death, MacLiag says, by Murrough. 

A A 


Murrough had raged through the battle, a sword in 
each hand, dealing slaughter till at last he met Sigurd, 
whom impenetrable armour protected. But Murrough 
struck with his right hand at the leather fastenings of 
the helmet behind Sigurd's neck and cut them so that 
the helmet fell back exposing the neck ; and a blow 
of the left-hand sword slipped in and shore Sigurd's 
head away. But Ebric, the son of the King of 
Lochlann, charged into the host of the Dalcais 
" dealing in all directions fierce barbarous strokes." 
Murrough turned on him and in the combat closed 
with the foreigner, and pulling his coat of mail over 
his head, stabbed him thrice with his own sword. 
But Ebric reached for his dirk and ripped Murrough 
open so that his bowels dropped out. The Dal- 
cassian had strength left to take his slayer's head, 
and he lived himself till sunrise and received absolu- 
tion, " having made his confession and his will." But 
Ebric's dirk put an end to the High Kingship for the 
Dalcassians, and undid the best of Brian's work. 

Between Clontarf and the dun of Dublin all was 
then open plain, and the folk of Ath Cliath stood on 
the walls watching Sitric himself among them ; 
and by him was his wife Brian's daughter. " Well 
do the foreigners reap the field," said Sitric, as he 
saw the play of Danish axes ; " many is the sheaf 
they throw from them." " At the end of the day it 
will be judged," said Brian's daughter. The day 
wore on, and towards afternoon the battle turned 
against the Danes and they made to fly. They had 
fought for the time of two tides, and it was flood 


tide about sunrise when they joined battle. Now 
nearing sunset it was flood again : "And the tide had 
carried away their ships from them, so that they had 
not at the last any place to fly to but into the sea 
(for Malachy and the Meath host were between them 
and the head of the hurdle bridge). 1 

" Then it was Brian's daughter said : ' It appears to me that the 
foreigners have gained their inheritance.' ' What meanest thou, 
O woman ? ' said Olaf's son, Sitric. ' The foreigners are going 
into the sea, their natural inheritance,' said she. ' I wonder is it 
heat that is on them : but they tarry not to be milked if it is.' 
The son of Olaf became angered, and gave her a blow that broke 
her tooth out." 

If it be true that the battle was visible from the 
walls, the fight must have raged from the Liffey 
across to the Tolka about a mile distant. The 
Danish ships would have been drawn up all along the 
edge of Liffey, for they were habitually beached ; 
a passage in one of the sagas shows that they would 
float in water where men would be only up to the 
armpits wading. The tide at Dublin has a consider- 
able rise, so that the water might easily drown a man 
at flood where a ship would be grounded and even 
dry at the ebb. They fled presumably in wild panic 
promiscuously, for the story tells that young Tur- 
lough, Murrough's son, " went after the foreigners 
into the sea when the rushing tide struck him a blow 

1 This statement concerning the tide afforded basis for testing 
MacLiag's accuracy ; and independent calculation was made to fix 
the time of high water on Good Friday in 1014. It was found to 
be 5.30 a.m. 

A A 2 


against the weir of Clontarf 1 and so he was drowned " 
in grapple with at least one of the enemy. Prob- 
ably the Danes, finding themselves cut off from the 
bridge and from their ships, were trying to escape 
northwards along the shore and plunged into the 
mouth of the Tolka river, which would then be deep 
with the rising flood. 

One of the Danes at all events escaped 
northwards the viking, Broder. For somewhere on 
the rising ground by Clontarf Brian, whose seventy- 
four years of age kept him from the fight, knelt on 
a cushion praying, and no one was with him but his 
own attendant " whose name was Latean, from whom 
are the O'Lateans (Laddens) still in Munster." 
Brian said fifty psalms and fifty prayers and fifty 
paternosters, and he asked then how the battalions 
were. Latean answered, " Mixed and closely 
compounded, each in the grasp of the other, and the 
noise as if seven battalions were cutting down a wood." 
Brian asked how Murrough's standard fared : and 
the boy answered, " It is standing, and many of the 
banners of the Dalcais are around it." " That is 
good news," said Brian, and he prayed again, three 
fifties of psalms and prayers and paternosters ; and 
again he asked how the battalions were. And Latean 
answered that no man on earth could tell one side 
from the other, for the greater part were fallen, and 

1 This weir stood where are now Ballybough bridge and the 
vitriol works, according to Mr. J. H. Lloyd, and there is no better 


those who were alive were so spattered with blood 
that a father could not know his own son. And 
Brian asked for Murrough's standard, and was told 
it was still standing and had passed far westward 
through the battalions. Brian said : " The men of 
Erin shall be well while they see that standard." 
Then he went back to the praying as before ; and 
again he asked. This time the attendant said the 
hosts were like a wood which had been cleared, leaving 
only its stately trees and immense oaks standing. 
And the few gallant heroes that were left were all 
wounded and pierced through and dismembered. 
" And the foreigners," he said, " are now defeated, 
and Murrough's standard has fallen." 

" ' That is sad news, on my word,' said Brian ; ' the honour 
and valour of Erin fell when that standard fell, and Erin has fallen 
now indeed ; and never shall there appear henceforth a champion 
comparable to. that champion. And what avails if we are to sur- 
vive this, or that I should obtain the sovereignty of the world 
after the fall of Murrough and Conaing and the other nobles of the 
Dalcais.' " 

Latean urged him to fly, as a party of the 
foreigners were retreating in his direction. But Brian 
refused to move ; for, said he, the fairy Aoibhill of 
the Grey Crag above Kincora had told him he would 
be killed that day. And he gave Latean his blessing 
and told him his will ; how he was to be carried first 
to Swords, then to Duleek, then to Louth, where 
the Society of Patrick should meet him and bear 
his body to Armagh. While he still spoke, the 
foreigners were seen approaching. 


<Woe is me, what manner of people are they? ' said Brian. 
' A blue stark-naked people,' said the attendant. ' Alas ! ' said 
Brian, they are the foreigners of the armour, and it is not to do 
good to thee that they come.' While he was saying this he arose 
and stepped off the cushion and unsheathed his sword. Brodar 
passed him by and noticed him not. One of the three who were 
there and who had been in Brian's service said ' Cing, Cing ' ; 
said he, This is the king.' ' No, no,' but ' Prist, prist,' 
said Brodar. ' It is not he,' says he, * but a noble priest.' ' By 
no means,' said the soldier, 'that is the great King Brian.' 
Brodar then turned around and appeared with a bright, gleaming, 
trusty battle-axe in his hand, with the handle set in the middle of 
it. When Brian saw him, he gazed at him and gave him a stroke 
with his sword, and cut off the left leg at the knee and his right 
leg at the foot. The foreigner dealt Brian a stroke which cleft his 
head utterly, and Brian killed the second man that was with Brodar, 
and they fell both mutually by each other." 

The saga tells more credibly that Broder after 
his feat was captured by Brian's men and was put to 
death with horrible torture. But in the essential 
there is agreement ; the sagas admit that Brian fell, 
but that the defeat was crushing and conclusive. 
Hrafn the Red escaped with tidings to Earl FJosi. 
" What hast thou to tell me of my men ? " asked the 
earl. " They all fell there," answered Hrafn. All 
through Scandinavia portents were seen and recorded, 
for that battle was the most famous fought across the 
western sea, both for the host of men and the great 
tidings that happened there. 1 An epoch was marked 

1 Tradition tells that Brian's body was laid under a yew tree, 
and that the yew tree is still there. At all events, in the grounds 
of a house just north of Clontarf Church is a yew whose age can 
only be guessed by centuries : the most wonderful tree of its kind 
in these countries, according to expert testimony. 


for Gall not less than for Gael. All hope and all 
fear of a Norse dominion in Ireland was gone : and 
gone also was the last prestige of Norse paganism. 
With the downfall of Earl Sigurd's banner and the 
death of Broder, there vanished the spirit which had 
prompted not merely plunder, but deliberate destruc- 
tion of Christian strongholds. Sixteen years later the 
Danes began to build the church which was the 
original or germ of Christ Church Cathedral ; and 
the first bishop of Dublin was a bishop of the Ostmen, 
not of the Irish. So strongly was this felt, that when 
the kingship of Dublin passed, as it did before 1050, 
to an Irish Prince Diarmuid Maelnambo, whose wife 
was Brian's grand-daughter the Irish clergy resented 
the position given by Diarmuid to what they considered 
a foreign See, and claimed Fingal as a part of the 
Irish diocese of Glendalough. This quarrel was never 
really reconciled : and when the Irish Church came 
to be disestablished, and boundaries had to be defined, 
it appeared that no limit had ever been fixed between 
the See of Dublin and Glendalough which had been 
for long united in practice as they are now. 

It is perhaps unnecessary to insist that the effect of 
Clontarfs battle was not to expel the foreigners, but 
to reduce them to a position of friendly colonists, 
separate in race, but allied in religion, and after no 
great lapse of time recognising the supremacy of an 
Irish King. 1 One fact may be given in illustration. 

1 The Danish stock survives among us. Sigerson and Kettle, for 
instance, are names familiar and honoured to-day in the city and 
county of Dublin. 


A famous Irish MS. is called the Book of Leinster, 
in which O'Curry discovered a fragment of the War 
of the Gael with the Gall before the perfect copy 
(written by Michael O'Clery, one of the Four 
Masters) was unearthed at Brussels. This Book, a 
collection of historical tracts, poems, tales, and gene- 
alogies, was written (we learn by an inscription 
in it) under the direction of Firin, Bishop of Kil- 
dare, for Aedh MacCrimhthann (Griffin), who was 
tutor to Dermot MacMurrough, " Chief King of 
Leath Mogha." It was precisely this claim of Der- 
mot's to be Chief King of southern Ireland which 
led to his banishment from Ireland ; and the banish- 
ment is commemorated thus by a marginal note in 
the Book of Leinster : 

" O Mary ! It is a great deed that is done in Erin this day, the 
kalends of August. Dermod MacMurchadha, King of Leinster 
and of the Danes, was banished by the men of Ireland over the sea 
eastward. Och ! Och ! O Lord, what shall I do ? " 

Thus it appears that the fugitive king, who to 
support his own claim brought in the Normans, had 
regarded his title to the headship of Leath Mogha as 
covering the sovereignty of the Danes of Ireland. 

The most painful part of the story of Clontarf 
begins after the battle. The host of Munster lay 
encamped on the green of Ath Cliath by Kilmainham 
for two days, waiting the arrival of Donough, Brian's 
surviving son (the child of Gormflaith), who had 
been sent northwards with a raiding party. He 
came in at last, bringing a spoil of cattle, and at the 


sight the foreigners threatened to come out and dis- 
pute the possession, but thought better of their 
threats. Next day was spent in burying the dead 
except the nobles, of whom thirty were taken home 
for burial and in making sledges for the wounded. 
But on the night after the first day's march dissension 
broke out. The men of Desmond separated their 
camp from that of Thomond, and " their attention 
was fixed on the Dalcais their small number and 
the great number of their wounded." Cian, prince of 
Desmond (son of that Molloy who murdered Brian's 
brother Mahon, and whom Brian slew), revived the 
claim for alternation of sovereignty, and, as head of 
the Eugenian stock, claimed hostages from Donough 
and the Dalcais. Donough answered that Desmond's 
allegiance to Mahon and Brian had not been in ful- 
filment of the hereditary compact, but enforced be- 
cause the Dalcais had won back Munster from the 
foreigners. Then the Desmond force threatened 
Thomond, and the Dalcais thought to put their 
wounded into a camp at the Rath of Mullaghmast. 
But the wounded men stuffed their wounds with moss 
and took their swords and advised immediate battle. 
Their grim looks scared the men of Desmond, and 
moreover the Kerrymen were at variance with the 
rest of South Munster, and so the Dalcais remained 
unfought. But they had still to traverse much of 
Leinster, and in Ossory, which Brian had plundered, 
MacGillaPatrick and his men demanded hostages 
from the weakened clan. Then the wounded men, 


whose wounds had been washed in the Barrow sent 
to the nearest wood for stakes to drive into the 
ground, and tied themselves to them, and so made 
ready for battle, standing. And again their fierce 
countenance overawed their opponents, and the op- 
ponents " avoided the Dalcais." But thrice fifty of 
the wounded died of the excitement, and were buried 
where they had stood ; and the remnant of the 
Dalcais came home to Kincora. So ends the story 
of the war of the Gael and the Gall, with an incident 
whose splendour only calls attention to the sad truth 
that despite Brian's efforts Ireland was yet far re- 
moved from any conception of herself as a nation. 
The clan was still the unit, and Irishmen, Dalcais or 
other, fought not for the nation, but for the clan. 

The one other great incident another turning 
point in Irish history with which Clontarf is 
associated, belongs to a day when the conception of 
Ireland as a nation was insisted on as hardly ever 
before, and hardly ever since. I have told of the 
vast meeting on the hill of Tara, in August, 1843, 
when half a million Irishmen- at the lowest estimate 
assembled in an orderly multitude to back 
O'Connell's demand for Repeal of the Union. Then 
followed meetings up and down through Ireland, 
each with its muster counted by hundreds of thou- 
sands. At the provincial meeting of Leinster, held 
at the Rath of Mullaghmast an old seat of the 
provincial kings O'Connell was invested with the 


national cap, shaped to represent the old Milesian 
crown. The great series of demonstrations was to 
close with one last and greatest meeting at the focal 
centre of Ireland, and on the field of Ireland's noblest 

But in the meanwhile Sir Robert Peel's Govern- 
ment was not idle. Thirty-five thousand troops were 
distributed through the country ; fortifications and 
barracks were put in a state of defence. Little 
wonder, for O'Connell's famous speech at Mallow 
earlier in the year had threatened armed resistance. 
The Clontarf meeting was fixed for Sunday, October 
8th ; days passed on and preparations multiplied, 
the Government did nothing ; but on Friday night, 
the 6th, newspapers rumoured that the meeting would 
be proclaimed. Only at half-past three o'clock on the 
Saturday was the proclamation actually brought into 
the room where the Repeal Committee were sitting. 
O'Connell took it and glanced at it. " This must be 
obeyed," he said. Then, turning to the secretary, 
" Write what I dictate." An appeal to the people 
was improvised, and sent to the printers ; workmen 
were despatched to pull down the platform ; riders 
galloped in all directions to meet the vast crowds 
who from the four quarters of Ireland were thronging 
the roads to Dublin. By dawn the appeal was 
posted in every village for twenty miles round, and 
the people, sullen but obedient, turned back to their 
homes. The Sunday found nothing but a regiment 
of rifles and a regiment of dragoons on the appointed 


place of meeting ; two more regiments with a brigade 
of artillery posted on the rising ground above ; three 
ships of war anchored in the bay, and the guns of 
the Pigeon House trained on Clontarf; the Lord 
Lieutenant riding about to view the scene ; and 
Tom Steele, O'Connell's " Head Pacificator," in a 
green uniform hunting home any few stragglers who 
showed signs of assembling. 

It was O'Connell's great and dramatic collapse. 
He had carried Catholic emancipation fourteen years 
earlier by the threat of civil war. He had reckoned 
to carry Repeal by the same method. He had failed 
and the result was, as Gavan Duffy puts it, that his 
party " incurred the hatred of England by threatening 
resistance, and the contempt of England by failing 
to perform what they threatened." What is more, 
from that day he forfeited the confidence of the 
younger men, leaders of what became known as the 
Young Ireland movement. 

It is one of the tragic mistakes of Irish history. 
Had O'Connell consistently maintained his role as 
the constitutional agitator he might have kept Ireland 
together. But at Mallow he preached armed 
resistance, then by his series of monster meetings 
each a tremendous display of physical force he 
strung the people up to the point of rebellion, and 
when the decision came to be taken, he did not rebel. 
Probably he never meant to rebel. Except in Parnell's 
day the nationalists of Ireland have never been united 
as they were in 1 843, and they were then more numerous 


by at least three million, still flushed with the 
pride of their victory in 1829, and their strength 
unsapped by the famine. Not to threaten would 
have been probably wiser than to rebel. But to 
threaten and not to rebel was a kind of national 

In a word, Clontarf was the theatre of a great 
national triumph, now nine hundred years ago. But 
within living memory it was the scene of a national 
discomfiture whose consequences in a thousand 
pernicious forms are with us yet. 



I COULD count upon my fingers those among my 
acquaintance who have made pilgrimage to Cashel ; 
and yet in all Ireland there is hardly anything so 
impressive and so interesting as this acropolis of 
Munster. Whether you consider its picturesqueness 
to the eye or its value as a monument in the history 
of Irish civilisation, Cashel stands without a rival 
among all our ancient groups of building ; and, for 
the mere beauty of the prospect from the famous 
Rock, it is worth a day's journey. But its peculiar 
significance is, I think, that which this chapter is 
written to draw out : that at Cashel you have the 
most complete and unmistakable demonstration of the 
point to which Irish culture had attained before the 
Norman conquest, in the one decorated building or 
that earlier epoch which comes down to us intact ; 
and also the most striking illustration of the manner 
in which Norman-Irish life grew into and out of the 
old pre-Norman civilisation. Cashel carries the mind 
back into remote ages of Munster kingship, and down 


through the great days of Irish Christianity ; carries 
it forward then through the centuries of alien yet 
assimilated dominion under rulers part Norman, part 
Irish ; and brings it finally to the abrupt close the 
stop and deliberate smashing, under a new and wholly 
alien order, of all that linked Ireland with her vener- 
able past. 

What, then, is Cashel ? A kind of natural citadel 
in the first place, commanding one of the richest dis- 
tricts in Ireland. Picture a rock, some three hundred 
feet high, with a couple of acres of surface on its flat 
top approached by the steepest ascents ; and this rock 
dropped down among the pastures at the north of the 
Golden Vale. As soon as men conceived the idea of 
fortification at all, it was inevitable that the strongest 
of them should possess themselves of this vantage- 
ground and secure their possession by encircling the 
summit with a girdle of roughly piled wall. Any fort 
so enclosed was a cashel ; but this was the Cashel par 
excellence, and as early as we have any history Kings 
of Minister ruled here. 1 I have told already how, 
when Oliol Olum made his famous arrangement to 
alternate the sovereignty of Leath Mogh, Cashel was 
excluded alike from the Eugenian or Dalcassian in- 
heritance, and belonged to the king who was recog- 
nised as ruler of the southern half of Ireland. When 

1 Vague tradition tells how before any king annexed it the place 
was looked on as a dwelling of the immortals Sidbe Druim, the 
Fairy Ridge, in whose recesses lived people of the Tuatha de 


St. Patrick on his missionary journey southward in 
about 450 reached Cashel, the ruling king was ^Engus 
MacNatfraich, of the Eugenian stock which for 
many centuries almost monopolised the right that 
should have alternated. It is said that omens heralded 
the saint ; that the idols were flung on their faces and 
there was strange panic in the palace. At all events, 
jEngus and his household believed, and it was in 
preaching to them (according to tradition) that 
Patrick used the trefoil shamrock leaf for an illus- 
tration of the Three-in-One. It is said also that 
when Patrick was baptising ^Engus, the crozier's 
spike went through the king's foot. ^Engus made 
no complaint, thinking it part of the rite, and 
Patrick, when he learnt this patience, promised that 
no king of that royal stock should die of wounds for 
ever. Yet (as Archbishop Healy does not fail to 
point out) the promise was not entirely fulfilled, and 
the most famous king of ^ngus's line perished in 
battle. This was Cormac MacCullinan, who before 
his tribesmen put him on the throne was a bishop 
and a scholar, living the monastic life at Dysert 
Diarmada in Kildare. He became king in 900, at 
the age of sixty-five, and presumably before then had 
written the works which give him a high place among 
royal authors. Of these, his Glossary survives, a 
strange monument of uncritical learning. 'The Psalter 
of Casket, his second work, was perhaps not wholly 
his own, for it is attributed also to St. Benignus, 
Patrick's disciple, and to Brian Boru. But the truth 


may well be, as Archbishop Healy guesses, that 
Benen began, and Cormac three centuries later enlarged 
and revised, this " great Domesday Book of the South," 
which under Brian would naturally have been still 
further corrected as a record of the subdivisions of 
the kingdoms, the rights and duties of sub-kings, and 
so forth. Of this work only a fragment is now 
extant, though three scholars Keating, Colgan, and 
Ware spoke of it as extant in the seventeenth 

To this earlier Cormac slain, as I have told 
already, at Ballaghmoon in 9 1 6 some have attributed 
the famous chapel on the Rock. But no one who has 
looked at the arch of Tuam or Devorguilla's chapel at 
Clonmacnoise, buildings dated definitely, can hesi- 
tate to affirm that Cormac's chapel was built at the 
same period that is, after the seat of the Munster 
kings had been granted in perpetuity to the religious 
of Ireland. The true interest of Cashel only begins 
with the date when Cashel ceased to be a royal dun, 
and was made a home of religion, learning, and the 
arts. That came to pass as follows. 

In the latter half of the tenth century under 
Mahon, and under Brian, Cashel became the titular 
seat of a stronger sovereignty than Munster had 
ever known. Brian ruled from Kincora ; but he 
fortified Cashel, and probably his successors Donough 
and Turlough resided there. During their reigns 
Killaloe and Kincora were again and again plundered 
and destroyed by hosts from Connaught or from 


Ulster, and I infer that the Dalcassian princes had 
their stronghold elsewhere. Gradually, however, the 
centre of power seems to have gravitated towards 
Limerick. It was outside Limerick that Turlough 
set up the head of his enemy, Donough O'Rourke, 
surnamed the Cock ; and to Limerick Murtough 
O'Brien, Turlough's successor, brought back the 
very stones of Aileach, the northern Hy Neill palace, 
after he had demolished it in revenge for Donald 
McLoughlin's destruction of Kincora. This happened 
in noi ; and in the same year (say the Four 
Masters) : 

"A meeting of Leath Mogh was held at Cashel by Muir- 
cheartach O'Briain with the chiefs of the laity, and O'Dunan, 
both bishop and chief senior, with the chiefs of the clergy ; and 
on this occasion Muircheartach O'Briain made a grant such as no 
king had ever made before, namely, he granted Caiseal of the kings 
to the religious, without any claim of laymen or clergymen upon it 
but the religious of Ireland in general." 

Thenceforward there began to be Archbishops of 
Cashel, as there had for long been Archbishops of 
Armagh. It was the answer of Leath Mogh to the 
claim of Leath Cuinn regarding spiritual supremacy. 
There was no denying that Armagh was in the 
northern half of Ireland, and that a special ascendency 
attached to the See of Patrick. So long as the High 
Kingship was an appanage of the Hy Neill, whose 
kingdoms, whether of Ulster or of Meath, fell within 
Leath Cuinn, no one contested this predominance. 
But when Brian, King of Leath Mogh, established 


himself as supreme in Ireland, and .his successors 
(with varying fortune but unbroken persistence) 
maintained their claim to the same supremacy, 
southern bishops began also to seek a special 
eminence for the See of Emly in which Cashel was 
situated. Celsus, Archbishop of Armagh in the end 
of the eleventh century, was friendly to the King of 
Munster, and friendly also to O'Dunan, then Bishop 
of Emly. He consented, therefore, to the establish- 
ment of a second metropolitan See subject to his own 
primacy ; and it was doubtless a part of this bargain 
that King Murtough should provide the new Arch- 
bishopric with a home of suitable splendour. So from 
TIOI onwards there were Archbishops of Cashel, 
though as yet without special recognition from the 

The last days of Murtough O'Brien were em- 
bittered by numerous defeats and by the rising power 
of the O'Conors in Connaught. When he died in 
1119, the sovereignty of Munster was divided in 
many hands, and Cashel with the Eugenian kingdom 
of Desmond fell to Cormac MacCarthy. Turlough 
O'Conor was able so far to defy Conor O'Brien, 
the nominal King of Munster, that he invaded 
Ormond and forced Cormac MacCarthy to fly into 
the monastery at Lismore, in which retreat Cormac 
stayed three years before O'Brien restored him to 
the sovereignty of Cashel. Yet the service was ill- 
requited ; Eugenian and Dalcassian seldom bore each 
other a lasting friendship, and Cormac intrigued 

I',B 2 


again and again against the Dalcais, till finally an 
O'Brien murdered him on the Rock of Cashel, which 
he had beautified exceedingly. For Cormac had 
begun to build the chapel which bears his name after 
his restoration to the throne in 1127 ; it was finished 
in 1134, four years before he was murdered, and 
twenty years before the famous Bull of Adrian IV. 
granted Ireland to Henry II., to be his, with the 
Pope's blessing, whenever he should find himself at 
liberty to conquer it. 

But before we consider what the Rock looked like 
when Cormac was done with his building, it is 
necessary to describe it as it stands at the present 
day. Mr. Thomson's drawings relieve me of most 
of the labour ; let me try to supplement them, first 
of all with a little geography. 

Cashel was the first and earliest of my journeys 
undertaken for this book a Bank Holiday trip in 
August and a glorious day of summer we had for it. 
Quite early we went out from Kingsbridge, along the 
line which for some distance strikes due west through 
Moy Liffey. Kingsbridge Station itself stands in what 
was once the Green of Ath Cliath at Kilmainham, 
where Brian's armies encamped ; and in a general 
way we followed the route which Dalcassians must 
have marched over a hundred times. Yet it is 
probable that Munster armies on their way south 
would not go so far westward as does the railway, 
but would swing at once to the left, skirting the mass 


of the Wicldow Hills. Splendid that range was as 
we saw it ; the eye was chiefly caught by Killikee, so 
richly wooded, with the Hunter's Lodge or Hell 
Fire Club, discernible to good sight, on top of it, and 

the wide valley of Borna Brina leading away up to 
Kippure, the highest summit. As we held westward 
to Newbridge, the mountains receded in long masses, 
vaporous and cloud-like, stretching far south through 
Leinster. All about us was a green country, too 
green ; one missed the warmer colour of harvest, 


and the loss was only emphasised when we chanced 
on the rare beauty of a cornfield, and men cutting it 
under that August day of sun and shifting cloud. 
But the land was diversified with trees a rich 
country full of prosperous demesnes. No wonder ; 
it looked beautiful enough in the soft air and under 
the soft blue of sky, the soft grey and pigeon tints of 
the sun-fringed clouds. Yet I could not but think 
over Ferguson's lines, written concerning this rich 
plain where so often 

" The merry music of the chase 
Floats up the festive borders of Kildare." 

Moy Liffey, with its " brown-clear river running 
through," still lacks, I fear, for those who live most 
pleasantly in it, a charm that it ought to have. 
We have not advanced much since Ferguson thus 
apostrophised it : 

" Yet thou for them, alas ! nor History hast, 

Nor even Tradition ; and the man aspires 
To link his present with his country's past, 

And live anew in knowledge of his sires, 
No rootless colonist of alien birth, 

Proud but of patient lungs and pliant limb, 
A stranger in the land that gave him birth 

The land a stranger to itself and him." 

Well maybe it will not be so for ever ; the 
spirit of Ferguson, himself a colonist, may spread 
through all the Irish of his race and creed. We 
crossed the Liffey near Naas, a great stronghold of 
the Leinster kings ; and I think that in old days the 


main road led south through Naas to the ford of 
the Barrow at Athy. But the line still runs west, 
past the skirts of the famous Curragh where 

' Slim-bright steeds extending in the race 
Are yonder seen, and camping legions there." 

The * slim-bright steeds ' are generally to be seen 
exercising near the railway, and as for the * camping 
legions,' there are the lines of the Curragh two or 
three miles off across the wide expanse, which is 
cavalry ground and racecourse together. The 
resident gentry of Kildare and the other counties 
may speak of themselves as " the garrison," but the 
actual operative garrison has its quarters up yonder, 
in a town of mean impermanent huts behind 
which loom up the ever durable unchanging hills. 
Yonder, representing the power which for centuries 
in Ireland has divided in order to govern, is the 
factor which has prevented the fusion of the self- 
styled " garrison " with the general mass of Ireland. 
That, yonder, is what has made possible the ascendency 
of a minority with the consequences, moral and 
physical, both to the minority and the majority, that 
we are all so unhappily aware of. 

At Kildare you have a glimpse of what would be 
well worth visiting as a preliminary to Cashel a 
Gothic'cathedral, so planned as to be also a fortress 
the religious architecture of builders whose training was 
all military. A few miles further, at Monasterevan, 
the line crosses the Barrow here a smallish slow- 


running river, which nevertheless is of great 
significance as a landmark. The Liffey drains Moy 
Liffey eastward into Dublin Bay, north of the moun- 
tains of Leinster. But the Barrow and its affluent 

Round Tower and Gable of Cathedral on Cashel Rock. 

the Nore draw with them all the waters of Offal y, Leix 
and Ossory, to disgorge them a hundred miles south, 
in the upper limb of Port Lairge the Waterford 

At Portarlington the train at last heads south- 
ward : and now you have on your left the low chain of 


rocky hills dividing the valley of the Barrow from that 
of the Nore while on your right you begin to see 
outlines of the Slieve Bloom range which separates 
central Leinster from the Shannon watershed. 
Beyond Maryborough and Ballybrophy another line 
of hills takes up the business of dividing Ireland, and 
these are easily recognised if only by their name. No 

Rose Window, Cathedral on Cashel Rock. 

one can mistake the Devil's Bit a great gap in the 
top of this steep ridge. And when you see that, you 
cannot be far from Cashel, for the story is that 
what the Devil took out here he dropped ten or 
fifteen miles south-east in the middle of the fields, 
and it is now the Rock of pious memory. You will see 
also on your left and in front of you the magnificent 
outline of the great Galtees, and to the left of them 


again the Comeragh hills, shepherding the Suir east- 
ward. For by this time you have struck another river 
basin, westernmost of the four Slaney, Barrow, Nore 
and Suir which drain the rich central part of Ireland 
from north to south in courses roughly parallel to 
each other, until the Suir, encountering this great 
barrier of the Galtees, curves back on itself and then 
heads away east. 

But let us consider the historical geography from 
the Rock itself the finest vantage point in Ireland 
for this kind of study. A little branch takes you off 
the main line of rail, and very soon on your left you 
see high up in air this incredible pile of buildings 
golden-grey in the sunlight. The station brings you 
to the south-west of the Rock, where the slope is 
most gradual and the buildings do not overhang so 
stupendously as on the east, whence Mr. Thomson 
has drawn them. Yet even so it is very amazing. 
You toil up, seeing not much except the cathedral 
which covers three-fourths of the whole space, and 
beyond it the round tower rising stately and slender. 
Cormac's chapel is hidden from view. But on such a 
day as we had for our sight of it, the landscape 
attracts before the ruins. Once you are in the en- 
closure, admitted through a gate in some small 
castellated buildings (once the residence of vicars- 
choral), the entrance to the cathedral is before you 
and a huge fragment of solid masonry lying fallen 
beside it. But you will turn your back on the cathedral 
to look at the Galtees. Right across from south- 


east to south-west this chain raises its line of bold 
peaks some three thousand feet high all the more 
imposing because they rise from so rich and so 
fertile a " sweet-flowery plain." Stretching from 
you, all one expanse of green only diversified by 
trees, is the Golden Vale, which runs straight south- 
west to Mallow thirty miles off. The Galtees border 
it on the left ; on the right are the low Slieve Phelim 
hills with Limerick and the Shannon beyond them. 
Slieve Phelim is in Thomond, and Thomond extended 
to the very wall of Cashel. But to the south are 
the Decies, on both slopes of the Comeragh hills, 
which continue the Galtees eastward. Separated 
from these, the domed bulk of Slievenamon (Sliabh 
na mBan, the Women's Mountain) blocks off Cashel 
from Southern Ossory and the valley of the Nore ; 
in the gap between it and the Comeraghs the Suir 
escapes seaward past Clonmel. North of the Rock 
you should mount the tower if only for an 
embracing view the Devil's Bit shows plain and 
indicates the direction of Ormond ; east of that, all is 
Leix and Ossory. You stand here at a meeting-point 
of ancient principalities. 

Yet that day, under a glorious sunshine, one 
thought little enough of anything but mere beauty. 
The view was waterless though one felt or guessed 
at the Suir's presence all through that lush-growing 
plain ; but save for the lack of sea or lake or river, 
there is no view known to me to rival it. Mountains 
everywhere, undulating here, there cragged and 


menacing ; cloud-shadows sweeping over them and 
off them on to such wide expanses of earth so fertile ; 
purples and greys and browns, greens innumerable, 
under that deep sky it was a glory of colour. And 
as one Jay there basking at the foot of ancient walls, 
the mind had sense of a meaning and a purpose 
in the landscape as if all this were somehow part of 
the ancient life, contributory to the building of that 
strong and stately citadel, now so lamentable and 
so desolate, yet enduring still to testify beyond all 
power of dispute to bygone greatness. 

A strange thing about these ruins is that ruin has 
overtaken only what is of more recent date. There 
can be little doubt that the round tower, which is 
perfect, dates from some time not long after King 
Murtough's grant of the royal residence to " the 
religious of Ireland." Except in ecclesiastical centres 
these belfries were not erected, and it is probably 
older than Cormac's work, though only by some 
decades. His chapel, also dating from the early part 
of the twelfth century is, externally, much as he left it. 
But the cathedral is a ruin, and it was evidently built 
after both chapel and tower. An earlier church may 
have stood where is now the choir, but the great 
building which now stands roofless was certainly 
planned to fill up the space between the round tower, 
which is at the east angle of the north transept, 
and Cormac's chapel, which lies along the south side 
of the choir, included in the angle formed by the 
south transept. 


The cathedral so planned is cruciform but has the 
cross inverted. Cormac's building determined the 
position of the transept, about half-way along the 
whole length available on the Rock ; thus the nave 
could not be more than equal in length to the present 
choir. But, moreover, a goodly cantel had to be cut 
off for purposes other than those of religion, and the 
western end of the cathedral is simply a castle, with 
defences commanding the great door. Entrance to 
it was had only by narrow stone stairs leading 
up in the thickness of the wall from the church 
itself. Thus the nave was shortened to half the 
length of the choir ; traces can be seen of corbels 
which carried a gallery to increase its number of 

It would be tedious to dwell on the detail of what 
can be seen in the cathedral, but one may note the 
decorative ideas. The choir is lit from the north side 
so far as it runs parallel with Cormac's chapel ; beyond 
that, windows are only on the south side so as to 
grade the light ; and there is one small window in a 
space on the south wall curiously curved so as to 
throw light under the central arch of the tower 
which sprang from the meeting of the transepts. 
It is said that the cathedral was originally built by 
Donal O'Brien, King of Thomond, in 1169. ^ 
so, the transition from Cormac's chapel planned 
some forty years earlier is most notable, both in 
point of size and of construction. Yet to achieve 
the smaller building was perhaps technically the more 


King Cormac's Doorway. 

difficult feat, and its ornament is by far more 
interesting than that of the greater church. 

Cormac's chapel is now entered from the cathedral 


by a doorway evidently of a later day, but its original 
main entrance was the superb northern portal which 
Mr. Thomson has drawn. The drawing shows how 
this early Irish architecture in adopting the arch had 
never wholly departed from the decorative ideas 
connected with flat lintels or angular headings ; and 
it will be seen how finely the artist combined the 
idea of the entablature with the principle of the 

Inside, what strikes one first is the smallness of the 
building ; nave, chancel, and apse, are all in miniature. 
Why the chancel arch is set to one side no one 
professes to explain, but so it is, and the effect is bizarre 
enough. What remains in my mind is the general air 
of massive richness produced by a profusion of 
heavy stone mouldings of the type generally known 
as Norman. The walls are arcaded with round 
arches, and the surface of the enclosed panels is 
chiselled with tracery in low relief. Dark as the 
place is, the gloom only lends to the general richness, 
and there are traces of colour on the walls which 
must have completed the splendour. 

Outside, the most striking feature is again the 
decorative effect of arcading the walls, and carrying 
string courses round the queer unsymmetrical towers. 
But from an architect's point of view the stone roof, 
so steep and so heavy, set on so narrow a building, is 
the interest of the whole. It is doubly supported ; 
the nave has a barrel-vaulted roof, the chancel has 
one of groined semicircular arches. Above that 


again springs an inner roof of stone, making a high- 
pointed arch, on which the exterior roofing rests. 
From the tower you can enter the space left between 
these two roofs, which is now only one apartment, 
but once, as widows and corbels show, had two 
stories, separately lit and divided by a wooden floor. 
One of these places was doubtless a scriptorium or 
studio for copying and illuminating manuscripts ; and 
somehow that queer chilly garret seemed to bring 
me nearer to the actual human life of the old place 
than I got elsewhere. 

Cormac's chapel represents the final development 
of building carried out by Irish workmen and de- 
signers on purely Irish lines. If it was completed in 
1 1 34, ten years did not elapse before the Cistercian 
colony at Mellifont brought in the Continental style 
of architecture ; and the leap in forty years to the 
development shown by the cathedral is not impos- 
sible. The craftsmen who built Cormac's chapel 
could build anything under competent direction : 
and there is no doubt that the ideas introduced at 
Mellifont would tend to spread rapidly. 

These new ideas represent a much needed quicken- 
ing of the national mind. Cormac's work, fine as it 
is, speaks of a race which had drifted into a back- 
water for let it be remembered, by 1130 York 
Minster was already built. The quickening influence 
was the Church. St. Malachy's journey to Clairvaux 
was answerable for the construction of Mellifont : 
and Christian, chief of the clerics whom he left to be 


trained at Clairvaux, was afterwards Bishop of Lis- 
more, and would naturally be a potent influence in 
spreading the example of this new work through 
Munster. If King Donal was really able in 1169 to 
have such a building planned and carried out, as was 
the cathedral whose walls stand on the Rock to-day, 
the clerics were to be thanked for it ; for through the 
Church Ireland was being drawn out of her back- 
water into the general stream of European life and 
thought. Politically, she was in a state of arrested 
development, unable to rise out of her welter of princi- 
palities into any coherent organisation ; and there 
is good reason for believing that King Donal did not 
build the cathedral as we know it, because it contains 
a military and political idea, alien to his stage of 
civilisation. The west end of it was a castle, and no 
Irish king had as yet perceived the possibility or the 
necessity of consolidating power by means of strong 
and costly military buildings. That lesson had to 
be learnt from the Normans, and cruelly they en- 
forced it. 

It is not enough to say that Ireland was in a state 
of arrested development. She had fallen back. 
The proof of it lay in all men's memories, for no one 
had forgotten how, under Brian, Ireland had been 
organised and had been strong ; and the century and 
a half which had elapsed since Brian's death had gone 
far to prove that Irish clans could not be welded into 
a system by any political means. Yet at the same time 
the Irish Church was being drawn closer and closer 

c c 


to the vast European organisation. In 1152 her 
archbishops for the first time received the pallium 
from Rome ; and there is no doubt that one motive 
which prompted the desire for some great political 
change was a consciousness of grave disorder in the 
ecclesiastical system of Ireland. All these things 
have to be remembered when we consider the most 
important thing that ever happened at Cashel. 

In 1172 Henry landed at Waterford and, having 
received the submission of MacCarthy, king of 
Desmond, marched to Lismore. Thence he crossed 
the Galtees, and advancing to the Rock of Cashel, was 
received on a friendly footing by Archbishop 
O'Lonergan the first fully recognised archbishop of 
that metropolitan see. To the ancient capital of 
Leath Mogh, where by a king's dispensation the 
spiritual not the temporal power now held sway 
Irish princes flocked with surprising rapidity. 
MacGillaPatrick of Ossory and O'Fallon of the Decies 
came first : then no less a man than Donal O'Brien, 
king of Thomond, submitted and even surrendered 
Limerick to the new sovereign. 

Henry, thus accepted with at least lip-homage by 
the chiefs, proceeded to regularise his position with 
the clergy. Under his auspices a synod was called 
at Cashel : the Bishop of Lismore, holding a 
commission from the Pope, presided ; and notable 
decrees were passed regulating matters of ecclesiastical 
discipline and general morality. More than that : it 
is affirmed (and denied) that Henry received a sealed 


charter from every archbishop and bishop in Ireland 
conferring the kingdom of the country on him 
and on his heirs. There is at least nothing 
improbable in this, for Henry came to Ireland 
buttressing his claim with the moral support of 
Adrian's Bull. And for that Bull every bishop, and 
for that matter every educated man in Ireland, could 
give this justification : that under the existing political 
system there seemed no hope of a settled polity, and 
which concerned Churchmen more closely that 
the general disorder was spreading into the Church. 

So much as this is clear. When Henry came to 
Ireland he came ostentatiously as a friend of the 
Church. The civilisation which he represented in its 
military aspect had already in its civil aspect been 
brought into Ireland by the Cistercians. And under 
the Normans ecclesiastical establishments flourished 
exceedingly as Cash el can show. 

On the south side of the Rock are ruins of school 
buildings, and it is probable that the school was con- 
ducted by Benedictines, who were the first order to be 
settled here. But many others came to cluster about 
this centre. A Dominican Priory was founded in 1 243 , 
a Franciscan Monastery in 1250, and their ruins can 
still be seen in the town, with some beautiful re- 
mains of stone-work. But the most striking ruins, 
outside the ring-fence of the Rock, are those of Hore 
Abbey, in a meadow to the west. The exquisite 
groined roof under its tower is a good example of 
what Irish builders had learned to do under the new 

c c 2 


methods carried out here as elsewhere by the 

This monastery was built for them by Archbishop 
MacCearbhall who, having dreamed that the Bene- 
dictines plotted his death, proceeded to eject them and 
install the Cistercians in possession of their revenues. 
It is likely there was more than a dream to cause this 
proceeding, and this was not the only time, as we 
shall see, when the white monks played cuckoo to the 
black. And perhaps the ordinary reader may be the 
better of some notes on the history of these great 

The Benedictines were the first regular monastic 
communities in Europe. Before them monks lived 
together as in Ireland, but only in chance collec- 
tions of individuals attracted by some reputed sanctity. 
Benedict first organised a rule. Yet in his order the 
monastery indeed was disciplined, but there was no 
discipline among monasteries. To extend the prin- 
ciple of discipline and uniformity was the object of 
the monks of Citeaux, who only separated themselves 
from a Benedictine monastery in 1098. In 1113 
St. Bernard joined them, and they found their in- 
fluence suddenly spreading broadcast through the 
might of a great man. 

St. Malachy O'Morgair was born at Armagh in 
1093, and was probably little younger than St. Ber- 
nard. He was at Lismore during the three years 
(1124-7) of Cormac MacCarthy's enforced retreat 
there, and it may have been he who infected Cormac 


with the zeal for building, since it is specially re- 
corded that he " strove to make churches like those 
he had seen in other countries," adorning them, said 
his enemies, " with proud and unnecessary work." 
Yet Cor mac's building stands for an order of ideas 
wholly distinct from those which the Cistercians 
embodied in their forty-two Irish monasteries of 
which Mellifont, the earliest, dates from 1 142, and the 
latest was St. Mary's, built on the Rock of Cashel 
about 1260. 

In 1421 the buildings were modified, when 
Richard O'Heidin, the archbishop, *' repaired " Donal 
O'Brien's edifice. They took their final shape, I 
imagine, after 1485, when the great Earl of Kildare 
burnt the cathedral, and apologised for doing so by 
saying that he would never have committed such a 
sacrilege but that he thought the archbishop was 
inside. Unfortunately a day was coming when 
churches and archbishops both were exposed to a 
different danger. Kildare might burn and destroy in 
pursuit of a private feud, but the Geraldines were 
builders of churches for the clergy and the people of 
Ireland. Things went very differently in the reign of 
Elizabeth, when active persecution of Catholics had 
succeeded to the mere confiscation of Catholic pro- 

In the fiercest of this persecution, Dermot O'Hur- 
ley, a distinguished Irishman, who had taught law at 
Louvain, was made Archbishop of Cashel. For two 
years he carried on his duty under the screen of a 


secular habit ; but at last, while he chanced to be 
staying with Thomas Fleming, an Anglo- Irish Baron, 
at Slane, " a grave question was started at dinner in 
the presence of the squint-eyed Robert Dillon, one of 
the Queen's judges. The heretics, giving each his 
own opinion, freely proceeded to such extreme folly " 
that Dermot could no longer keep silence, but con- 
futed them with such wealth of argument that Dillon's 
suspicions were roused, and O'Hurley was arrested 
while staying with the Black Earl of Ormond who 
was at least nominally a Protestant. The bishop was 
brought to Dublin and first was offered bribes to 
accept the archbishopric under the Queen's authority. 
He refused ; the Chancellor and Treasurer proceeded 
to argue, when he, " not relishing this," says his con- 
temporary, Don Philip O'Sullivan, " especially as he 
was not allowed to reply to their nonsense, bade them, 
stupid and ignorant men (such was his high spirit), 
not to offer ridiculous and false doctrines to him, an 
archbishop and doctor of celebrated academies." 
Failing argument, Loftus and Wallop had recourse to 
torture, whose revolting details I need not set forth ; 
and finally (on a rumour of Lord Ormonde's coming to 
Dublin) they hanged this indomitable and very 
human martyr. 

His successor in the archbishopric was, I fancy, 
Miler Magrath, whose epitaph, in neat elegiacs, can 
be found in the cathedral. This Miler (that is, 
Maolmhuire, votary of Mary) was consecrated a 
priest and " set out from Rome to Ireland as if he 


were going to denounce the new dogmatic errors of the 
English." Yet Philip O'Sullivan thinks that he had 
other intentions, and that he purposely paraded his 
apostolic letters in order to be arrested. Being 
brought before Elizabeth and her council he "deserted 
with little unwillingness the Catholic religion, readily 
embracing the Queen's sect and bribes." Made 
Archbishop of Cashel, he gave evidence of his Pro- 
testantism by marrying, not once only but twice his 
first wife, a convert like himself, having fretted herself 
to death lest her marriage might after all have been 

Yet it is not against Miler Magrath that I desire 
to rouse a retrospective indignation. His conversion 
may have been sincere, though tradition is against 
this view ; and Don Philip O'Sullivan wrote that 
" he does not hunt priests nor endeavour to detach 
Catholics from the true religion," otherwise, let it 
be hoped, than by legitimate example and argument. 
His handsome monument shows that the church was 
in his day still cherished as an edifice ; and though it 
must have been badly wrecked in 1647, when 
Murrough of the Burnings (then a soldier of the Par- 
liament) stormed the place with much slaughter, even 
in the eighteenth century, the strong building held 
together and the chancel was in a state to keep out 
weather. It was used as a Protestant cathedral until 
the time of Archbishop Price, who succeeded to the 
see in 1744. This was a divine who liked things 
handsome about him, and who, in his tenure of 


Meath, had built offices to the projected palace 
of Ardbraccan on such a scale that his successor con- 
verted one of these wings into a dwelling house 
Price not having had time to complete the main body 
of the building. At Cashel he found his palace 
situated commodiously enough at the foot of the 
Rock whence one can overlook the handsome solid 
mansion and its trim grounds. But access to the 
cathedral was a trouble, for Archbishop Price natur- 
ally liked to drive up in state, and even his pre- 
decessor, Bolton, had found some difficulties in the 
approach. Bolton wrote to Swift in 1835 : 

" I am now wholly employed in digging up rocks and making 
the way easier to the church ; which if I can succeed in, I design 
to repair a very venerable old fabrick that was built here in the 
time of our ignorant, as we are pleased to call them, ancestors. I 
wish this age had some of their piety, though we gave up, instead 
of it, some of our immense erudition." 

Then, after an invitation to the Dean to come and 
view " King Cormack's chapel, his bedchamber, etc." 
Bolton adds 

" I really intend to lay out a thousand pounds to preserve this 
old church ; and I am sure you would be of service to posterity if 
you assisted me in the doing of it." 

Unhappily the intention was never carried out ; and 
Archbishop Price, in presence of the same incon- 
venience, resorted to a less costly expedient. For he 
procured first of all an Act of Parliament (passed in 
1747) reciting that, whereas "in several dioceses 
cathedral churches are so incommodiously situated that 


they cannot be conveniently resorted to for divine 
service," power should be given to the chief governor, 
with assent of the privy council, to " remove the site of 
a cathedral church to some convenient parish church." 
This, although stated as a general principle, had 
reference apparently to Cashel only. At Cashel 
alone, at all events, it was acted upon ; an Act of 
Council, passed in 1749, authorised the removal of 
the cathedral from the Rock into the town. This 
of course was only possible in a spiritual or meta- 
phorical sense. But if they could not remove the 
cathedral, they could at least destroy it, and a regi- 
ment of soldiers was employed to strip off the roof. 
It is a wonder that they spared Cormac's chapel. 
Having accomplished so much, Archbishop Price 
rested on his laurels ; the parish church (which is 
now the cathedral) was indeed begun ; but twenty- 
five years later a traveller (quoted by Mant) notes 
that it " had not a roof on it, the service being 
performed in a sorry room where county courts are 
held." Ireland in the eighteenth century was in- 
deed a wonderful country. 

So ends the history of the famous Rock. It is 
still used as a burying ground for certain privileged 
families, and a tall sculptured cross on the ancient 
Irish lines gives the Scullys a monument worth 
having, for it is a real addition to the beauty of the 
place. But is there nothing better than a burial 
ground to be made of this illustrious site ? Consider 
Cashel, socially and politically. There is the Pro- 


testant bishop's palace comfortable and well-kept ; 
there is the cathedral church (which was completed 
in due course, though not by Archbishop Price) down 
on the level, accessible enough for any coach, but the 
days of coach-driving bishops are over. And there, 
high on the summit, are round tower, chapel and cathe- 
dral, all carefully maintained as archaeological speci- 
mens by a department of the English Government. 
I confess that it would not shock me in the least if 
the most interesting of ancient edifices in Ireland 
were restored to the religious uses for which it was 
originally built, and if mass were said again in the 
chapel of King Cormac. 

The cathedral that was will never be the cathedral 
again. Cashel is still an archi-episcopal see in the 
Catholic church (though in the Protestant it has 
sunk to a mere bishopric), but its seat is now in 
Thurles with new palace and new cathedral. And, 
as it chances, I have never been so strongly im- 
pressed with the influence of the Catholic religion on 
Irish life as in that very town of Thurles, where I 
happened to arrive one afternoon in summer. A 
horse fair was just over, and it is not right to judge 
any town by a fair-day ; yet town and population 
alike spoke to me of the centre of a grazing district 
where industry is a forgotten word. Big, lusty, half- 
gentlemen swaggered the dirty streets unattractively. 
I went out exploring and crossed the Suir by a bridge 
which a Norman tower still commanded. Beyond it, 

xi THURLES 395 

one seemed to reach a sort of religious quarter : here 
was the cathedral and the bishop's residence beside it 
beyond that again the walls of a large convent. 
I cycled on down a long street of thatched cottages 
along a road swarming with children, then, seeing 
nothing to attract me, turned back to look at the 
cathedral. The entrance was railed in, and an open 
space of gravel and flagged walk led to it ; several 
people were coming in and going out and chatting 
quietly to each other. I went in too. It was a 
wonderful change from the dirty market place and 
swaggering drunkards. In the twilight little could 
be seen in detail perhaps better so but the build- 
ing was a finely proportioned Romanesque, and the 
great arches vaulted over noble spaces of gloom. 
The Lady Chapel, lit, with worshippers before it, 
had a magical effect in that half darkness ; and the 
whole building was pervaded with the gentle music of 
small bells rung softly somewhere above us. There 
was a constant quiet coming and going ; people rose 
from their knees and passed out, others passed in to 
their individual devotions. There was no special 
ceremony, yet the place was ready, expectant of 
worshippers. After all, I felt, here was the church 
really in the lives of men and women, ministering 
mystery and beauty, keeping a hold somehow on the 
lusty young squireens of the market place. Cashel 
and Holy Cross may be in ruins, but the religion of 
their builders is as strong as ever. And if at times 
some of us incline to think that its strength has 


sapped other forms of life not less essential, it is well 
to realise also its use as well as its vitality. 

I walked out across the flagged walks, where were 
old ladies with shawled heads still gossiping decor- 
ously : and the low ripple of the slow-flowing Suir 
under the bridge past the old Norman tower seemed 

Holy Cross. 

now only to complete and harmonise with the natural 
emotions and associations of the place. 

My errand at Thurles was to visit the ruined Abbey 
of Holy Cross (some ten miles from Cashel), which 
was founded in 1 168 by Donal O'Brien for the Bene- 
dictines. The "black monks" lived here in 1182, 
when a change took place which, according to the 

xi HOLY CROSS 397 

fragmentary MS. left by a Cistercian chronicler, 
" should be called rather a transfer " to the younger 
order. It is fair to infer that the Benedictines would 
have called it something different. But at all events 
its flourishing was under the white monks, and it was 
thrice rebuilt : for the second time in 1214, and later, 
at an unspecified date, " in a far finer style than that 
of King Donald." Part of these augmentations were 
the beautiful cloisters which Mr. Thomson has not 
drawn being attracted by the west front, which 
looks out upon the reedy Suir, so convenient for fish 
days. The whole place is of great extent, its various 
garths and cloisters little broken : and it has a sug- 
gestion of some graceful Oxford college, which 
would be complete if it had been our fate to see 
Oxford in ruins. 

Let us follow its history. In 1200 somehow or 
other the monastery became possessed of the relic 
which made its special glory a piece of the Holy 
Cross. Tradition says that this was procured for the 
order by the " Good Woman " whose son is buried 
in the beautiful tomb sketched here : and the Cistercian 
chronicler suggests that the " Good Woman " can 
be no other lady than Henry II. 's Queen Eleanor 
a startling theory. But at all events the place 
enjoyed high patronage : in 1340 Edward III. con- 
firmed Donal's grant, as King John had done before 
him. In 1414 the Earl of Ormonde, and Thomas de 
Botelir, then Lord-Deputy, granted their special pro- 
tection to it. as a chief glory of their territory. And 


in 1563, after the dissolution, it fell into no un- 
friendly hands, being granted with 450 acres of land 

The Tomb of the Good Woman's Son. 

to the then Earl of Ormonde. Its line of abbots 
lasted till after 1700 the monks still hanging on 

xi HOLY CROSS 399 

and coming tremulously back under the Butler pro- 

It may be well to recall that the founder of 
the Butler stock was Theobald Fitz Walter, who, 
coming over with Henry II., got great lands in 
Wicklow and Tipperary along with the title and 
duties of Chief Butler to the King. The sixth Chief 
Butler was created Earl of Ormonde in 1328. Two 
centuries later, the tenth Earl grew rich, perhaps at 
some sacrifice of conscience, for Holy Cross was one 
of nine religious houses granted to him. Yet, though 
the Earls doubtless pocketed the revenues, they en- 
abled the monks to remain in their cells and chapels : 
and throughout the reign of Elizabeth Holy Cross 
flourished in great repute. One of her statesmen 
described this relic as " the idol which the Irish more 
superstitious! y reverence than all the idolatries of 
Ireland." In 1600 Hugh O'Neill came down in state 
to visit it making, Fynes Morison says, a religious 
pretext for a political journey into Leath Mogh. 
And in 1603, when Red Hugh O'Donnell was on his 
way south to join the Spaniards at Kinsale, he also 
came to the gate, and had the sacred fragment 
brought out to confer benediction on his journey. 

After the break-up of the old Irish order under 
James and Charles, the relic fell into the custody of 
Walter, eleventh Earl of Ormonde, who before his 
death in 1632 (seeing his grandson, the first Duke, a 
Protestant) confided it to one Dr. Fennel till the 
house should return to its religious allegiance. When 


any heir of Ormonde again professed Catholicism, it 
was to revert to him as a sacred monument ; yet only 
" by way of trust or safe-keeping," for any church or 
convent which might have a claim on it, in case " the 
Catholick and Roman religion do flourish hereafter in 
this kingdom as hereto it hath." 

The sequel is curious. Lord Walter's great grand- 
son, the second Duke, handed the relic with Lord 
Walter's original instructions to a Mr. Valentine 
Smyth in 1691 (when the Catholic cause had been 
finally discomfited). Smyth passed it to a Mrs. 
Butler of Kilcash, she to a Miss Kavanagh of Borris, 
and she again in 1809 to the Catholic Bishop of 
Cork, who deposited the relic in the Ursuline con- 
vent of Cork, " it being the first regular monastery 
established in Ireland " since the dissolution ; and 
when the Ursulines moved to Blackrock, it moved 
with them, and there it is now. 

Two other memories there are besides these which 
I have called up, not to be overlooked by who- 
ever visits this district about Cashel. One is that 
of Father Mathew, born quite near the Rock in 
the early part of last century. Probably no single 
man has produced in modern times so great an effect 
by his personal exhortations. It is perhaps only 
natural that the effects have sadly faded out of sight 
and out of mind ; drink is a sore curse in the country, 
and a new apostle of temperance would have plenty of 
work to do. But there are many men still living 


who took the pledge from Father Mathew and have 
kept it rigidly to this day. 

The second name that I have to recall is one that 
may very fittingly help me to bring this book to a 
close. Geoffrey Keating was born in Elizabeth's 
reign, a native of Tipperary, sprung from a Norman- 
Irish stock. He was educated for the priesthood on 
the Continent, and, returning to his own country a 
doctor of divinity, was appointed to a church. Here 
(says Douglas Hyde, that later glory of the Gael who 
traces his descent, like Keating, not to Gael but to 
Norman Gall) Keating's fame as a preacher drew 
crowds together ; and so it happened once that he 
preached before the mistress of Carew, Lord Presi- 
dent of Munster, and chose a subject which gave 
her reason to apply the sermon near home. She 
complained to Carew, who issued a warrant for 
Keating's arrest under the laws against popery ; but 
the preacher was warned, and fled into the valley of 
Aherlow, that deep cleft scene of many battles 
which intervenes between the Galtees and the town 
of Tipperary. In its fastnesses he lay hid for years ; 
and this was the period when he conceived the design 
of writing the history of Ireland from the earliest 
times to the Norman conquest. 

His study and cell was a cave in the Galtees ; but 
to get materials he travelled far and wide in disguise, 
often at deadly risk, seeking out " the ancient vellum 
books at that time still preserved in the families of 
the ancient Brehons or in the neighbourhood of the 

D D 


ancient monasteries." Working in no critical spirit, 
he transmits many things that are incredible, and on 
that account did something to lower the general credit 
of native history. Yet he preserves also much that 
is invaluable to us, taken straight from the old docu- 
ments that he had before him, many of which are 
lost. His work was contraband, and could only cir- 
culate in manuscript, but hundreds of copies of it 
were diffused over Ireland. Its popularity was natural, 
for he wrote with the avowed intention of justifying 
the Irish against the unfairness which in his opinion 
English writers, such as Spenser, Stanihurst, Hanmer, 
Morison, and the others had shown. These men, he 
said, went through the Irish annals like a beetle in a 
garden seeking only for what was foul. 

" They never allude to the virtues and the good customs of the 
old Anglo-Irish and Gaelic nobility who dwelt in Ireland in their 
time. They write not of their piety or their valour or of what 
monasteries they founded, what lands and endowments they gave to 
the Church, what immunities they granted to the ollaves, their 
bounty to the ecclesiastics and prelates of the Church, the relief they 
afforded to orphans and the poor, their munificence to men of 
learning and their hospitality to strangers, which was so great that 
it may be said in truth that they were not at any time surpassed by 
any nation of Europe in generosity and hospitality in proportion to 
the abilities they possessed. Witness the meetings of the learned 
which they used to convene, a custom unheard of among other 
nations of Europe. And yet nothing of all this can be found in 
the English writers of the time, but they dwell upon the customs 
of the vulgar and upon the stories of ignorant old women, neglect- 
ing the illustrious action of the nobility, and all that relates to the 
ancient Gaels that inhabited this island before the invasion of the 


It is a long time since Keating wrote, yet plus cela 
change, -plus cest la meme chose. A friend of mine 
has written (yielding not for the first or last time to 
the temptations of a neat phrase) that Irish history 
is for Englishmen to remember, and for Irishmen to 
forget. It will be time to talk of remembering or 
forgetting when the facts are generally familiar either 
to Englishmen or Irishmen : and, though we recog- 
nise in Keating, as in all native historians, a lack of 
critical method, yet a reading of their accounts will 
often bring life into what seemed a dead skeleton, or 
mere inarticulate mass of dry bones, when studied 
in the histories more generally accessible. 

But Keating's significance is other and greater than 
merely as a historian. He was contemporary with 
the Four Masters, who like him gathered and 
digested all that they could find in the ancient records 
of their country. But they, the descendants of here- 
ditary and professed historians, maintained the pro- 
fessional tradition of a deliberately archaic style, which 
scorned popular comprehension. Keating wrote for 
the people in the Irish which was spoken by educated 
men of his day. He is the first classic of modern 
Irish prose : and not without good reason his name 
is borne by Craobh an Cheitinnigh, the Keating 
branch of the Gaelic League perhaps the most 
active group in that vigorous organisation which 
works so valiantly to keep alive, not only the ancient 
tongue, but the ancient literary tradition and the dis- 
tinctive national life, which, through Keating, through 


Eugene O'Rahilly, through Red Donough Macnamara, 
through Owen Roe O'Sullivan, Seaghan Clarach Mac- 
Donnell, Raftery of Galway, and many another name 
now becoming newly famous, were fostered and 
handed down with care and honour even in the 
worst adversity. These, at the eleventh hour and 
after careless and ill-instructed generations have let 
them fall into a ruin worse than Cashel's, we still 
hope to rescue and raise again for our stock and 
our seed to renew and make perpetual on the Fair 
Hills of Ireland which, lacking these, would lack 
consecration and be left mere beauty without a 



ABBOT OF CONG, the last, 90. 

Abyssinia, analogy of, 216. 

Achadh Aldai, cave of, 32, 34. 

Adamnan, St. (cross of), 229, 244 ; his 
deliverance of women, 240-4. 

Adrian IV., Pope, his Bull, 372, 387. 

Aetius, 222. 

Aherlow, Glen of, 401. 

Aideen, wife of Oscar, 331. 

Aileach, palace of northern Hy Neill, 
286, 344, 370. 

Ailill, husband of Maeve, 102, 105. 

Alcuin, 266, 271, 275. 

Alexander, Miss, quoted, 126. 

Allen, Bog of, 235, 250. 

Alps, the, 222. 

Amergin, the bard, 35. 

Amlaf (the White), 32. 

Amlaf Cuaran, 334, 338, 343, 344. 

Angus Og, 23, 34, 157. 

Aran, Isles of, 68, 270. 

Architecture (modern), 48, 81, 1 18 ; (pri- 
mitive) 6 1 ; (Norman Irish) 50, 76 ; 
(native Irish) 50 sqq., 95, 279, 299, 

Archbishopric of Cashel, 370. 

Ardee, 56, 57, 104. 

Ardilaun, Lord, his house at Cong, 86, 


Ard Righ, the, 286, 345. 
Arklow, 335, 342. 
Armagh, 98.( 114-127, 139, 333, 347. 
Armagh, Book of, 128-37. 
Art, native Irish, 14, 31, 80, 89, 109, 

119, 279. 

Armour, Danish, 294, 337, 358. 

Assaroe, 100, 315, 346. 

Ath CliatH (Duibhlinne), 288, 330, 

Medraidhe, 288. 

Athlone, 157, 249-256, 262-3, 34 6 - 
Athgabhla, 103. 
Aughrim, battle of, 74, 176, 256-61 ; 

(Play of), 262. 
Augustinians, the, 86, 91. 

BAGENAI., 140-1. 

Bailey Lighthouse, 33. 

Ballaghmoon, battle of, 336, 369. 

Ballinasloe, 258. 

Ballyally, 301. 

Ballymagibbon cairn, 66. 

Ballymena, 178, 192, 193, 199. 

Ballymore, 254. 

Ballymote, 171, 174. 

Ballyneety, 304. 

Ballysadare, 171. 

Bann, the, 33, 143. 

Bannaventa, St. Patrick's home, 184. 

Banqueting Hall at Tara, 214-19. 

Arrangement of tables, 212, 218. 
Barrow, the, 362, 375, 378. 
Battleford, 140, 143. 
Beaupark, 43. 
Bede, 127, 273. 
Belach Duin, 347. 
Belfast Lough, 179, 193. 
Benbulben, 152, 153, 158, 170, 
Benburb, 140, 143, 144. 



Ben Edair, 157, 330, 344. 

Benedictines, the, 387-8, 396. 

Benen, St., 72, 229, 368. 

Ben Levi, 65. 

Beresford, the Archbishops, 124, 135. 

Berminghams, the, 87. 

Bernard, St., 50, 76. 

Beul Borumha, 302. 

Bingham, George Og, 171 ; Sir 
Richard, 171. 

Blackwater (the Navan), 10, 103, 233 ; 
(the Ulster), 139. 

Boadan, sepulchre of, 22. 

Boleyn, Sir Thomas, 313. 

Bolton, Archbp., 392. 

Borumha, the tribute, 231, 343. 

Boy-troop of Emain, the, 105. 

Boycott, Captain, 69, 93. 

Boyne, valley of the ; its associations, 
10 ; present state, 17 ; the river, 
25 ; its scenery, 41 sqq. ; allusion 
to, 104, 113; its estuary, 223; 
Battle of the, 20, 24, 44-47. 

Braid, Valley of the, 178, 192, 193, 

Brantry, 144-5. 

Breastplate, St. Patrick's, 226, 

Brefny, 103, 150, 298, 349, 353. 

Bregia, 241, 337, 347. 

Brian Roe, see under O'Brien. 

Brian Boroimhe, 24, 27 ; his visit to 
Armagh and his funeral, 132 ; his 
occupation of Tara, 245 ; meeting 
at Athlone, 252 ; his first wars 
against the Danes, 293-8 ; his fleet, 
298 ; Victory of Glenmama, 344 ; 
becomes High King, 345 ; his 
progress through Ireland, 346 ; 
peace of his reign, 347 ; last war 
and battle of Clontarf, 348-356 ; 
his failure, 362. 

Britain, 179, 222, 273. 

Broder, the viking, 351, 356. 

Brownlow family, the, 134. 

Brugh na Boinne, 23, 35-41, 6l, 157. 

Brunanburg, Battle of, 338. 

Bulb farm at Rush, 24. 

Bull of Cuailgne, 56, 102, 108, 250. 

Bunratty Castle, 309, 310. 

Burren, the, 289, 308. 

Burial in ancient sanctuaries, 76. 

Bury, Professor, quoted, 181, 187, 223, 

Butlers, the, 313, 397. 

CAHIR, a, 60, 208. 

Cairbre Liffechair, 155, 163, 220. 

Cairns, 60, 62, 63, 65, 66, 67, 69. 

Caledon, 146. 

Calpurnius, father of Patrick, 180, 

Canal, at Cong, 86 ; at Benburb, 143. 

Caoilte MacRonan, 152, 156, 162, 

Carbery, lordship of, 295. 

Carlingford, 55, 102, 333, 336. 

Carrigaholt, 318. 

Carrigagunnel Castle, 314. 

Carrowmore, cromlechs at, 151. 

Cashel, 50 (a fort) ; (the city) 50, 132, 
246, 288, 291, 295, 297, 317, 366- 
372; 377-384; (synod of), 386; 
monastic settlements on, 388 ; re- 
built, 389 ; archbishops of, 390 ; 
dismantled, 393, 400, 404. 

Castle, Dublin, 334, 339-40. 

Castle Connell, 299. 

Cathach, the, 129, 130. 

Catholics in Ireland, 17, 18; persecu- 
tion of, 20, 46, 78, 389 ; growing 
power of, 22, 79) H7; education 
of, 119-121, 316; their burying 
ground at Killaloe, 307. 

Cathedrals, of Armagh, 114, 116-119. 
Cashel, 381, 385, 393. 
Christ Church, 118, 359. 
Kildare, 375. 
Killaloe, 299, 306. 
Thurles, 395. 
Tuam, 79, 81-3. 

Cearbhall, king of Leinster, 335. 

Ceasair, her cairn, 62. 

Charlemagne, 266, 268, 275. 

Christchurch Cathedral, 118, 359. 

Christianity, manner of its introduction, 
181, 223; type of early, 229; its 
rapid growth, 232. 

Church, the Catholic (in the twelfth 
century), 385 ; its influence to-day, 

Ciaran, St., 87, 270-3 ; 350. 

Cider, Boyne Valley, 22. 

Cinel Eoghain, 345. 

Cistercians, the, 50, 76, 384, 387-8, 

Claenferta, 231. 

Clairvaux, monastery of, 49, 51, 385. 



Clan system, the, 362, 385. 

Clan Colman, 283, 345. 

Clan Cullein, 297. 

Clanricarde, 78, 157. 

Clan William, 299. 

Clare, 68, 69, 289, 308, 313, 317 ; 

Earls of, 318 sqq. 
Clare's Dragoons, 319. 
Clare-Galway river, 72, 73. 
Claudian, quoted, 222. 
Clonard, 270, 276. 
Clondalkin, 341. 
Clonfert, 281. 
Clonmacnoise, 87, 265-83 ; foundation 

of, 272. 
Book of, 238 

Clontarf, battle of, 352 sqq. 
Colchu, lector of Clonmacnoise, 266, 

271, 273, 275. 

Collas, the, 113, 115, 222, 289. 
Collooney, 151. 171, 177. 
Colloquy of the Ancients, 164, 330. 
Colman, Abbot, 276 
Columbkille, St., 14 ; quarrel with St. 

Finnen, 128; with Ard Righ, 237 ; 


Conall, brother of Laoghaire, 233. 
Conall Cearnach, in, 236. 
Conchobar Mac Nessa, 98, IO2, III, 

"3. 236. 

Confederate Assembly, the, 316. 
Confession of St. Patrick, 128, 129, 

Cong, 59, 70, 81, 84-93 5 cross of, 


Conmaicne Cinel Dubhan, 69 
Conn the Hundred Fighter, 13, 35, 209, 

283, 288. 

Conor O'Brien, see under O'Brien. 
Corcabascinn, 320. 
Cormac Cas, 285, 290, 388. 
Cormac Mac Art, 35-41 (his death 

and burial), 37 ; in Ossianic Story, 

153-6, 158, 163 ; his rule at Tara, 

209-221 ; imposes Leinster tribute, 

231, 290. 
Cormac MacCarthy, King of Cashel, 

371, 380 sqq., 389. 
his chapel, 50, 118, 369, 380-4, 389. 
Cormac MacCullinan, 208 (his death), 

336, 368. 
Corrib, Lough, 59, 63 ; scenery of, 85, 

Costello, Dr., 61, 63, 69, 71. 

Cots on Shannon, 264. 

Covenant, Ark of the, at Tara, 239. 

Cratloe Wood, 323. 

Crimthann, High King, 35, 222, 322. 

Cromlechs, 151, 157 ; at Howth, 331 ; 

at Kilmashogue, 338. 
Cromwell, 2O, 46, 47, 192, 317. 
Cromh Dearg (Cathal O'Connor), 75. 
Croppies' grave, 21, 244, 247. 
Cross, Hill of, 194. 
Crosses, of Cong, 88, 89 

King Flann at Clonmacnoise, 276. 

Monasterlx)ice, 53-4- 

the Scullys at Cashel, 393. 

Tuam, 80. 

Crowe, O'Beirne, 88. 
Cruachan, 102, 223. 
Crundchu, husband of Macha, 100. 
Cuailgne, 56, 102. 
Cuchulain, 56, 99, 103-8, 114, 236. 
Cuildremhne, battle of, 129, 237, 270. 
Cumhdach, of Book of Armagh, 16, 

130, 133 

Curragh of Kildare, the, 375. 
Cyclopean remains, 27-34, 68. 


DAGOBERT, King of France, 44 

Daimhliag, the, at Clonmacnoise, 276, 

Daire, King, 115-16. 

Dalaradia, 113, 179. 

Dalcais, the, 245, 284 sqq., 302, 346, 
353 tff; 361- 

Dalkey, 328, 332. 

Dalriada (the Route), 113, 179, 244, 

Danes, the, 15, 32, 245 ; cause of their 
hatred of Christianity, 275, 276 ; 
their oppression, 293 ; wars against 
the Dalcais in Munster, 293-6 ; 
tribute in wine to Brian, 296 ; their 
invasions of Ireland, 332 sqq. ; 
their conversion, 338, 359 ; traces 
of them in Irish names, 331, 336, 
340, 341, 342, 359; Southern 
Danes allied to Brian, 352 : final 
defeat at Clontarf, 359 ; fusion 
with Irish, 359-60. 

Danish Kingdom of Dublin, the, 333, 
335, 359-6o. 

Dathi, 14, 222. 

4 io 


cle Clares, the, in Thomond, 309, 


de Courcy, John, 133, 135. 
Deer's Cry, the, 226. 
Deirdre, no, ill. 
Derg, Lough, 298, 301, 302. 
Dervorguilla, 16, 150, 279. 
Desi, the, 291, 352, 386. 
Desmond (meaning of), 285, 286, 295, 

352, 361, 386. 
Devil's Bit, the, 377. 
Diarmuid MacFergus High King, 128, 


O'Duibhne, 153, 156-62. 
MacMurrough, King of Leinster, 16, 

150, 360. 

Maelnamho, King of Dublin, 359. 
Dichu, Patrick's first convert, 192. 
Dicuil the geographer, 274. 
Diorruing, 154, 156. 
Dindsenchus, the, 35, 208, 235, 285. 
Dodder, the, 340. 
Donaghpatrick (in Gal way), 77 ; (in 

Meath), 233. 

Donal Mor O'Brien, see under O'Brien. 
Donough O'Brien, see under O'Brien. 
Donovan, King of Carbery, 295. 
Downpatrick, 133, 192. 
Dowth, 26-31. 
Dromoland, 318. 
Drogheda, 10, 20, 22, 24, 32, 47-8, 


Druids, 36, no, in, 223-29. 
Drumderg, 164. 
Drumsailech, 116. 
Dubh Gaill, the, 334. 
Dubhthach, the poet, 232. 
Dublin, a, (scenery of), 327-30, 333-39, 

original features of, 339-41 (see 

of), 359 

Duffy, Gavan, 364. 
Duff and Drowes rivers, 1 74, 346. 
Dun Cow, Book of the, 162, 231, 


Dun Angus, 68 
Duncriffan, 331. 
Dundalk, 55, 104, 333. 
Dungannon, 139 
Dunlaing, King of Leinster, 231. 
Dunlavin, 9, 344. 
Dunleary (Kingstown), 328. 
Dunmoe Castle, 42. 
D'Usson, General, 256. 
Dysert O'Dea, battle of, 311. 


EASTER, the Irish, 269. 

Eber, 11. 

Egypt, Irish monks in, 274. 

Elizabeth, Queen, 192, 253, 314, 315, 

Emain Macha, 99-101, 105, 109-111, 

113-5, 222. 
Emly (see of), 371. 
Enda, St., 270. 
Ennis, 316. 

Enniskilleners, the, 175, 177. 
Eochy, King of the Firbolgs, 65 sqq. 
Eoghan Mor, King of Cashel, 288, 290. 
Eoghanacht, or Eugenian line, 286 (its 

origin), 295, 345, 361,367, 371. 
Ere, St., 225, 232. 
Eremon, 11. 

Eskir Riada, the, 235, 250, 288, 289. 
Everard, Colonel, 234. 


FAIRY MILL, a, 71. 

Fanaid, 242. 

Fan-na-glarbad, 235. 

Fechin, St., 86. 

Fedelm, the prophetess, 106. 

FeisofTara, the, 12,215, 22O > 2 37- 

Fenian Cycle, the, 112, 152, 162-170. 

Ferdiadh, 56, 104, 107, 108. 

Ferdomnach the Scribe, 130, 136. 

Ferguson, Sir Samuel, 37, 62, 331, 374. 

Fergus MacErc, 244. 

Fergus MacRoy, 102, 103. 

Ferlegind, a, 273. 

Fertae Marty rum, 116. 

Fiacc, hymn of, 1 14. 

Fianna, the, 35, 153, 163; their 

bathing-place, 43. 
Fingal, 24, 55, 334, 349. 
Finn MacCumhaill,35, 153-1 69 passim, 


Finnen, St., 128 
Fionn Gaill, the, 334. 
Finvarra, 59 

Firbolgs, the, u, 12, 64-9, 289, 308. 
Fitzwalter, Theobald, 399. 
Flann, son of Conaing, High King, 32. 

Son of Maelseachlain, High King, 
276, 336. 

of the Monastery, 54. 



Focluth, wood of, 189, 190. 
Fontenoy, battle of, 74, 321. 
Fore Fechin, abbey of, 349. 
Forradh, the, 206, 210, 244. 
Fortescue, Sir Faithfull, 198. 
Four Masters, the, 130, 245, 312, 337. 

360, 403. 

Francis I., allied to Thomond, 311. 
Franciscans, the, 72, 77, 118, 144, 316, 



GAELIC LEAGUE, 93, 127, 403. 

Gae bulga, the, 108. 

GaeDerg, the, 158. 

Gallgorm Caslle, 198. 

Galtees, 296, 378, 401. 

Gap of the North, 139, 347. 

" Garrison," the, 375. 

Gaul, Irish plunder of, 222. 

Geraldines, the, 311. 

Gill, Lough, 148-50. 

Ginkel, 254-6. 

Glendalough, 349, 359 (see of). 

Glenmama, battle of, 27, 246, 344. 

Glen Southwell, 337. 

Glossary, Cormac MacCullinan's, 368. 

Gobhan Saor, wife of, 32. 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 263. 

Goll MacMorna, 153. 

Good Woman's Son, the, 397. 

Gore Booth, Eva, quoted, 151. 

Gormflaith, Queen, 338, 343, 350. 

Gowra, battle of, 163, 331. 

Grace, Colonel, 254. 

Grainne, daughter of Cormac MacArt, 

112, 154-62, 235. 
Graves, Bishop, 136, 279. 
Gregory, Lady, 109. 
Grey, Lord, 18 
Grey, John de, 252, 28. 
Guaire, King, 239. 
Guinness, Sir Benjamin, 8l. 


IlALLlDAY, 333. 

Harold, son of Ivar, 296. 

Headford, 77, 78. 

Itealy, Archbishop, quoted, 109, 117, 

127, 184, 188, 189, 192, 221, 274, 


Henry II., 372, 386-7. 
Henry VIII., 311, 313. 
High Kingship, the, 246, 286-9, 345 


Hogan the Rapparee, 304. 
Holy Cross Abbey, 396, 400. 
Hore Abbey, 387. 
Howth, 192, 328, 333. 
Hurley, Archbishop, 156, 236, 237. 
Hurney, Dermod, 60. 
Hyde, Douglas, 220, 407. 
Hy Many, 68, 75, 257, 351, 452. 
Hy Neill, 222, 237, 286, 344, 349. 
Hy mBloid, 291. 
Hymn of Fiacc, 114 ; of Patrick, 226. 


ICELAND, 335. 

Inchiquin titles, the, 315, 321. 

Earls of, 316, 318, 321. 
Inchagoill, 94 sqq. 
Inishmurray, 332. 
Inishpatrick, 24, 192, 332. 
Invasions of Ireland, the legendary, 

n, 64. 

Inver Colptha, 14. 
lona, 240, 270, 343. 
Ireland's Eye, 336. 
Ireton, 299, 

Ivar, Danish leader (fire. 860) 32, 
335 ; another (circ. 970), 295, 296. 


APANESE ART, analogy of, 106. 

ames II., King, 24. 

arlath, Saint, 72. 

ocelin, the monk, 135. 

oyce country, 65, 94. 

oyce, Dr., quoted, 250. 


Keeper mountain, 298, 299, 304. 
Kells, 10, 14, 15, 103. 
Keshcorran, 157, 158, 174. 
Kevin, St. , his monastery, 34, 
Kilbannon, 72, 230. 
Kilbarron, battle of, 309. 

4 I2 


Kildare Cathedral, 375; Garret, Earl 
of, 311 ; the Great Earl of, 389. 

Killaloe, 53, 263, diocese of, 290; 
scenery of, 298 sqq. ; meaning of, 
306 ; plank bridge at, 298, 349. 

Killikee, 373. 

Kilmainham, 350, 360, 372. 

Kilmashogue, battle of, 337. 

Kilmessan, 205. 

Kincora, 284, 292-3, 298-305, 365, 

Kingsbridge, 372. 
Kingstown, 328. 
Kinsale, battle ot, 258, 399. 
Knockanaur, battle of, 168. 
Knockaulin, 154. 
Knockmagh, 59, 62. 
Knockmoy Abbey, 75. 
Knocknarea mountain, 151, 152. 
Knock tow, battle of, 311. 
Knowth, 32, 103. 

Laeg, charioteer, 104. 
Laoghaire, High King, 14, 114, 182, 

217, 223-32. 
Lallys, the, 73, 75. 
Language, the Irish, 78, 83, 93, 290 

(dividing line of dialects), 403. 
Latean, Brian's attendant, 356. 
Leabuidh Diarmuidh, 157. 
Leacht, of the Lallys, 73. 
Leath, Cuinn, 245, 288, 342, 345, 

Lealh Mogha, 288, 297, 360, 370, 


League of the North and the South, 312. 
Lecky, W. E. H. , quoted, 46. 
Leinster, Book of, 162, 360. 
Kingdom of, 288, 289, 297, 343 (allied 

to Danes), 351, 360. 
Tribute, 231. 
Leix, 376, 379. 
Leixlip, 340. 
Lemeneagh, 318. 
Letterkenny, 244. 
Lia Fail, II, 244. 
Liffey, the, 329, 330, 331, 374. 
Limerick, 253, 254, 296, 333, 386. 
Lindisfarne, 332. 
Lismore, 371, 385-6 ; (Bishop of), 388. 

Liss, a, 60. 

Lissoy, 263. 

Literature, Irish, 108, 280, 325, 402. 

Lochlannaigh, the, 334. 

Lochra, the Druid, 225. 

Logue, Cardinal, 121-125. 

Loop Head, 112, 318. 

Lorrha, 238, 

Lucetmael, the Druid, 229. 

Lugh of the Long Hand, 104. 

Lugnath's stone, 96. 

Lusk, 24. 


MAAREE, 288. 
McCann, James, 233. 
McCracken, Henry, Joy, 201. 
MacDevitt, Phelim, 73. 
MacFirbis, Dugald, 69, 280. 
MacGeoghegan, the Abbe, 238. 
MacGillapatrick, the, 361, 386. 
MacHale, Archbishop, 83. 
MacLiag, the bard, 293, 343, 344, 349. 
MacMoyre, keeper of Book of Armagh, 

133. 134- 
MacMurrough, Dermot, King ot 

Leinster, 16, 150, 360. 
Macnamaras, the, 297, 318, 322. 
Macnamara, " Fireball," 323. 
Macnamara, Red Donough, I, 8, 

323-5, 404. 

MacNeill, Eoin, 12, 35, 69, 112, 288. 
McQuillans, the, 198. 
Macha, 100, 104. 

Maeve, Queen, 56, 102, 104, 152, 250. 
Maelmordha, King of Leinster, 344, 


Magh Adair, oak-tree of, 245, 297. 
Magh Innis, 192, 194. 
Magrath (Chronicler), 310. 

Miler, Archbishop of Cashel, 391. 
Mahon, King, 245, 284, 293-6. 
Mai and Miodra, 236. 
Malachy, High King, 27, 245, 297, 339, 

342-6, 351. 
Malachy O'Morgair, St., 49, 132, 384, 


Mallow, 379 ; " Mallow Defiance," 363. 
Mangan, Clarence, quoted, I, 8. 
Martin, St., of Tours, 269, 273. 
Mask, Lough, 63, 65, 86, 93. 
Mathew, Father, 248, 401. 


Mattock, the, 49. 

Meath, farming in, 23, 207 ; kingdom 

of, 222, 245, 286, 333. 

Meeneen Uisge, 67. 

Mellifont Abbey, 10, 16, 18, 48-51, 

384, 389. 

Merrion Square, 341. 
Meyer, Kuno, 240. 
Milesians, the, n, 35, 68, 69, 113, 

204, 236, 288, 290, 308. 
Milliuc, 179, 187, 194. 
Mill of Cormac at Tara, 2fil. 
Mitchell, John, 122. 
Mithridates, King, 211. 
Molloy, King of Desmond, 295-7, 361. 
Molyneux, 124. 

Monasterboice, 10, 15, 18, 43, 52-4. 
Moore, Garret, 18. 

Thomas, 150, 202. 
Mound of the Hostages, 207, 210, 


Mourne Mountains, 55, 104, 330. 
Moya Ruadh O'Brien, 318. 
Moytura, battle of, 63, 
Muirchu, 135, 183, 194. 
Muiredach, cross of, 53-4. 

High King, 320 A.D., 222. 
Muirthemne, 104, 23C, 236. 
Mullaghmast, Rath of, 361, 362 
Munster, kingdom of, 286 sqq. 
Murrough, see under O'Brien. 
Murtough O'Brien, see under O'Brien. 
Muskerry, 295. 


NAAS, 9, 374. 

Naisi, no. 

Navan, 10, 233. 

Navan fort, the, 99. 

Neagh, Lough, 9, 139, 143, 179, 193, 

Nemed, 64. 

Nemnach, the well, 205, 211-2. 

Nessa, Queen, 102, 236. 

New Grange, 27, 31-5, 63. 

Niall Blackknee, 337. 

Niall of the Hostages, 13, 35, 222. 

Niall, of Ulster, rebuilds Emain, 115. 

Nial-Saga, the 339, 351. 

Niamh, the fairy, 152, 166. 

Nith, the, 212. 

Nore, the, 376, 378, 

Normandy, cession of, 336. 
Normans, the, 16, 17, 75, 252, 280, 

308, 366. 
Norway, its relations with Dublin, 


Northumbria, conversion of, 269. 
Nuad, 65. 


O'BRIENS, the, 291, 299, 308-22. 
O'Brien's Bridge, 298, 304. 
O'Brien, Murrough (slain at Clontarf, 
1014), son of Brian Boroimhe, 
132, 344, 348-49, 352-57- 

Turlough (slain at Clontarf, 1014), 
grandson of Brian, 352, 353, 355. 

Donough (d. 1064), son and suc- 
cessor of Brian, 360, 369. 

Turlough (d. 1086), ruled at 
Limerick, 369, 370. 

Murtough (d. 1119), gave Cashel to 
clergy; 306, 370-71. 

Conor (d. 1142), defeated by Tur- 
lough O'Connor, 371. 

Donal Mor (d. 1194), built Killaloe 
and Cashel Cathedrals, ^06, 381, 
385, 389, 3?6. 

Conor (slain in the Burren, 1268), 
victor at Kilbarron, 309. 

Brian Roe (murdered at Bunratty, 
1277). 309 3i- 

Turlough (d. 1306), drove out the 
De Clares, 309, 310. 

Turlough (d. 1528), allied to Francis 
I., 311. 

Conor (d. 1539), last king of Tho- 
mond, 311-15. 

Murrough the Tanist (d. 1551), 312- 

Donough (d. 1553), ancestor of Earls 

of Thomond, 311, 313. 
Murrough (slain at Assaroe, 1597), 

fourth Baron Inchiquin, 315. 
Murrough of the Burnings (d. 1674), 

316-18, 391. 
Conor of Lemeneagh (slain 1652), 318. 

Moya Ruadh, his wife, 318. 
Donough, son of Moya Ruadh, 

first Baronet, 318. 
Daniel, first Viscount Clare (cr. 

1662), 319. 
Daniel, fourth Viscount (slain at 

Marsagha, 1693), 3 J 9- 


O'Brien, Charles, fifth Viscount (slain at 

Ramillies, 1706), 319. 
Charles, sixth Viscount, fought at 

Fontenoy (d. 1761), 320-1. 
Charles, seventh and last Viscount 

(d. 1774), 321. 
Murrough, first Marquis of Thomond 

(d. 1808), 321. 
Sir Lucius of Dromoland, ally of 

Grattan (d. 1794), 322. 
Sir Edward, voted against Union, 

Sir Lucius, succeeded to barony of 

Inchiquin (1855), 321-2. 
William Smith (d. 1865), headed 

rebellion, 322. 
O'Clery, Lugaidh, 173. 
O'Curry, Eugene, 203, 360. 
O'Connor, Turlough, 16, 80, 89, 371. 
O'Connor, Nuala, 87. 
O'Connors, the, 252, 371. 
O'Connell, Daniel, 21, 248, 362 (Dean 

of Clonmacnoise). 
Odo, 278. 
O'Donnell, Red Hugh, 140, 171-4, 

3iS 399- 

O'Donnells, the, 312. 

O'Donovan, John, 212. 

O'Duffy, Niahol and Gillibard, 87; 
Muiredach and Flannagan, 90. 

Offaly, 376. 

O'Flaherties, the, 77, 87. 

O'Gillan, Enoch, his poem on Clonmac- 
noise, 282. 

O'Grady, Standish Hayes, 106, 153, 
164, 167. 

O-h-Echan, Maclisu, 90. 

O'Heidin, Archbishop, 389. 

O-h-Oisin, Abbot of Tuam, 80. 

O' Hurley, Archbishop, 389. 

O'Kellys, the, 68, 258, 352. 

O'Laverty, Father, 35. 

Oldbridge, 20, 24, 25, 26, 44. 

Ollamh Fodhla, u, 220. ' 

Olliol Ollum, 285, 367. 

O'Lonergan, Archbishop, 386. 

Omeath, 56. 

Omulled, rural deanery of, 291. 

O'Neills, the, 311, 315. 

O'Neill, Hugh, 122, 139, 140, 399. 
Owen Roe, 144-7. 
Shane, 139. 

Oona, the, 144, 146. 

Oppressiveness of Danish rule, 293. 

Orders of Irish Saints, 270. 

O' Regan, Sir Teague, 176. 

O'Reilly, John Boyle, 30. 

Oriel, kingdom of, 50, 103, 115, 337. 

Orkneys, the, 350. 

Ormond, 291, 379 ; house of, 311, 313, 

O'Rourke of Breffny, 16, i;o, 349, 

357 ; the Cock, 370. 
Oscar, 153, 157, 161, 162, 167, 331. 
Ossian, 153-69, passim. 
Ossianic Poems, 152, 169. 
Ossory, 349, 361, 376, 379. 
O'Sullivan, Tadg Gaolach, 325. 

Eoghan Ruadh, 325, 404. 

Don Philip, 390. 
Ota, Queen, 276, 333. 
Otway, Csesar, 78. 
Oughterard, 94. 
Owel, Lough, 334. 


PALE, the English, 55. 

Parthalon, 64. 

Partry, 93. 

Patrick, St., 14, 25 (at Inishpatrick), 
44> 59) 7 2 ( at Kilbannon), 77 
(at Donaghpatrick), 96, 98, 114, 
115-17 (at Armagh), 128; (Lives 
of), 135 ; as personage in Ossianic 
poems, 163-9 ; his captivity, 
179 sqq, ', nature of his mission, 
181 ; his Confession, 182-90 ; 
place of his captivity disputed, 
184-91 ; his journey to Ireland, 
192; 193 sqq. (at Slemish), 204, 
223-32 (at Tara), 240, 270, 368 
(at Cashel). 

Pearces and Persses, the, 87. 

Peel, Sir Robert. 363. 

Peerages of ancient Irish families, 315. 

Persecutions, 1 8, 20, 46, 78, 389. 

Petrie, 136, 211, 219, 238, 244. 

Picts in Ulster, 113. 

Plantation of Ireland, 18 sqq., 46, 192, 

Plunket, Oliver, Archbishop, 134. 

Poddle, the, 339. 

Poets, the modern Irish, 325, 404. 

Portmore, 139, 140. 

Port Lairge, 297, 376. 

Price, Archbishop, 391. 


Protestantism in Ireland, 17, 18, 22, 
45 (in Connaught) 78, 121-7, I4 2 
(in Sligo) 177, 199, (at Clonmac- 
noise) 279, (at Killaloe) 307. 

Psalter of Tara, 209, 220-1, 368. 

QUIN ABBEY, 299, 310, 316. 


Raphoe, 242. 
Rath, a, 60. 

Conchobair, 326. 

Grainne, 155, 232, 235. 

Laoghaire, 206, 217, 213. 

of Mullaghmast, 361, 362. 

na Riogh, 205. 

naSeanaidh, 239, 240. 
Rathlin, 332. 
Rebellion of 1641, 20. 

of 1798, 21, 246 sqq. 

against Brian, 349. 
Red Branch, the, 98, 109, ill, 112, 

114, 153, 266. 
Red Hugh O'Donnell, 140, 171-4, 315, 


Ree, Lough, 103, 276, 333. 
Reeves, Dean, 124, 135, 137. 
Repeal, 21, 247, 364. 
Restoration, the, 318. 
Roads, ancient, 235, 250, 330. 
Rolleston, T. W., poem on Clonmac- 

noise, 283. 

Roman Empire, the, 181, 222. 
Rosnaree, 37-41, 44, 212. 
Ross Errilly, Monastery of, 72, 77, 

Round Towers, 15 (their use), 52, 230, 

276, 380. 
Ruadan, St., his curse on Tara, 236, 

238, 246, 345. 
Rush, 24. 

Saints, the Irish, 271, 332. 
Sarsfield, 45, 74, 176, 253, 261, 303. 

Scenery, "natural," 6; of the Boyne, 
41 sqq. ; of Louth, 55 ; of Corrib, 
85 ; of Braid valley, 97 ; of 
Sligo, 1 50 ; of Shannon, 264, 307 ; 
of Dublin, 328 ; of Leinster, 374 ; 
of Cashel, 380. 

Scholastic Learning, 127, 271, 273. 

Schomberg, 21, 44, 176. 

Scotus, 222. 

Scullys, their cross at Cashel, 393. 

Sculpture : primitive, 30, 33 ; at Tuam, 
79-83 ; at Clonmacnoise, 276, 278 ; 
Cross at Monasterboice, 53-4. 

Seanchas na Roilic, 35. 

Senchus Mor, 182-230. 

Septs of Thomond, 291, 308. 

Settlement, Act of, 46. 

Shamrock, the emblem, 368. 

Shannon, as dividing line, 69, 249; 
scenery of, 264, 298. 

Shannon Bridge, 281, 282. 

Sidhe, the, 34. 

Sigurd, Earl, 350, 353. 

Silken, Thomas, 311, 314. 

Sitric, son of Godfrey, 336 ; son of 
Gormflaith, 344, 350. 

Skelligs, the, 22. 

Skerries, 24, 192, 335. 

Skerry, 178, 195. 

Slane, 15, 44, 45, 103, 224. 

Slaney, 378. 

Slemish, 179, 187, 193, 207. 

Slieve Bernagh, 305. 

Slieve Cualann, 329. 

Slieve Donard, 55, 192, 330. 

Slieve Gullion, 55, 330. 

Slievenamon, 379. 

Slieve Phelim, 296, 299, 379. 

Slighe Asail, 235. 
Mor, 235. 
Midluachra, 235. 

Sligo Town, 148 sqq., 171, 176. 

Smiths, 219, 228. 

Sollohed (Sulcoit), 245, 296. 

Solomon, King, 216, 219. 

Souterrains, 61. 

St. Georges, the, at Headford, 78. 

St. Laurence, Almeric, 75. 

St. Ruth, 254, 261 ; his dog, 261. 

Stackallen, 42. 

Stella, 24. 

Steyne, the, of Dublin, 340 

Stilicho, 222. 

Strangford, 179, 192, 336. 



Suck, the, 256, 281. 

Suibhne, Abbot, 274. 

Suir, the, 288, 290, 378, 379, 394, 397. 

Swilly, 229, 242. 

Swords, 24. 


TAILTENN, 10, 12, 233. 

Tain Bo Cuailgne, 102, 108, 250, 281. 

Tanistry, Custom of, 313. 

Tara, 10, n, 12, 13, 21, 35, 98, 102, 

114, 153, 155, 202-248, 297, 330, 

343, 345- 

Meaning of name, 208 ; curse on, 239. 
Tea, Princess, 208, 211. 
Teach Miodchuarta, 214, 217. 
Teagasc Riogh, 36, 212, 219-220. 
Teltown, 233. 
Thingmote of Dublin, 344. 
Thomond, 285 sqq. t 290, 308, 379. 
Thurles, 394, sqq. 
Tibullia, 198. 

Tighearnach, Annals of, 36, 280. 
Tirechan, 135, 183, 231. 
Tobacco, 22, 234. 
Tobar na Suil, 196. 
Tolka, the, 353. 
Tollendal (Tullinadaly), 74, 75. 
Tombstones, 76. 
Torbach, Archbishop, 130, 136. 
Tourmakeady, 93. 
Townley Hall, 26. 
Tradition, value of, 191. 
Trim, 10, 16, 20. 
Trinity College, 14. 
Tripartke Life, the, 115, 117. 
Trout, 84, 
Tuam, 59, 60, 71, 73, 79 (the cathedral), 

84, 171. 
Tuatha de Danann, IT, 24, 34, 84, 104, 


Tuathal Teachtmhar, 12, 13, 231, 331. 
Turgesius, 131^276, 333. 
Turlough O'Brien, see under O'Brien. 
Turloughs, the, 71. 
Tyrconnell, Lady, 24. 


UNION, the, 322. 

United Irishmen, the, 201. 

Ulster, kingdom of, 103, 113, 115, 

222, 244, 289, 334, 346. 
Urachree, 258, 261. 
Urn, funeral, 62, 67-8. 
Ursuline Convent at Blackrock, 400. 
Ussher, Archbishop, 133, 199, 268. 
Usnach, sons of, 99, no, 113. 

VALE, the Golden, 298. 
Ventry, battle of, 168. 


293, 343> 36o. 
Warships, 36, 355. 
Washer at the Ford, the, 310. 
Waterford, 297, 324. 
Water-mill, Cormac's, 36, 211. 
Westropp, T. J., 35. 
Wexford, 297. 
Wicklow, 192, 328, 342. 
Wild Geese, the, 75. 
Wilde, Sir William, quoted, 65-7, 89, 

William III., King, 25, 26, 44, 55, 

I75> 253. 

Women, position of, 241. 
Wood-Martin, Colonel, 176. 
Works, Board of, 27, 73, 278. 


YEATS, W. B., 151, 154, 165, 240. 
Yellow Book of Lecan, 218. 
Yellow Ford, Battle of the, 121, 140. 
Yellow Steeple of Trim, 16, 20. 
Yew-Tree, Brian's, 358 ; Maelmor- 
dha's, 348. 

In Preparation. 


Written by STEPHEN GWYNN and 
Illustrated by HUGH THOMSON. 

THIS book, which Maunsel & Co., Ltd., will 
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